Thursday, August 18, 2016
HOUSTON – The Houston man convicted of creating and distributing videos depicting the torture and killing of puppies, chickens and kittens has been ordered to federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Brent Justice, 55, was found guilty on three counts of producing and one count of distributing what is referred to as “animal crush videos” following a one-day bench trial May 23, 2016.
Today, U.S. DistrictJudge Sim Lake, who presided over the trial, handed Justice a 57-month sentence. Justice also be required to serve a term of three years of supervised release following completion of the prison term.
Co-defendant Ashley Nicole Richards, 25, originally from Waco, but residing in Houston, was also convicted after opleading guilty in September 2015.
People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) defines the “crush” fetish as a cruel and illegal genre of pornography in which women are videotaped or photographed mutilating small animals for the sexual gratification of viewers. In crush fetish materials, women are depicted, usually barefoot or in high heels, stepping on (or crushing), torturing and killing different species of animals, ranging from crawfish, crabs and insects to rodents, rabbits, kittens, puppies, cats, dogs and other mammals.
Under federal law, it is illegal to depict - via photograph, motion-picture film, video, digital recording or electronic image - actual conduct in which one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury, and is obscene.
These were believed to be the first individuals indicted on these offenses since the statute was amended in 2010.
Richards and Justice created and distributed videos that involve puppies, chickens and kittens being tortured and killed. The videos are titled “puppy1,” “puppy 2,” “whitechick1,” “whitechick2,” “whitechick3,” “blackluvsample,” “adammeetseve” and “adammeetseve2” and were created at varying times between February 2010 and August 2012. In the “puppy2” video, which is more than 13 minutes in length, Richards is seen torturing and killing a blue Pit Bull-mix puppy in a kitchen. The defenseless dog’s mouth is closed with duct tape and he struggles as Richards strikes the dog numerous times with a meat cleaver. In the video, Richards chops off one of the puppy’s paws, then hacks at his head and neck. Richards is later seen severing the dog’s head and urinating on its body. In another video, described in court, Richards steps on a cat’s eye with heel of her shoe.
Previous court records also indicated that during the videos, Richards is often scantily clad and wearing a Mardi Gras-type mask. As she tortured the animals, she engaged in sexually charged dialogue meant to arouse the viewer.
The government contended that Justice was the cameraman in all of the videos in all the videos he was charged with producing. Richards testified during the bench trial that Justice introduced her to “crush” and that he was the person behind the marketing and distribution of the videos.
Authorities were alerted to the videos following an inquiry from PETA.
Richards was originally arrested on state charges on Aug. 15, 2012. A federal grand jury returned an indictment Nov. 28, 2012, and she was transferred to federal custody. However, the crush video charges were later dismissed on what the court cited as constitutionality issues. The government appealed that decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans which subsequently overturned the decision of the District Court. The defense then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the 5th Circuit’s ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court denied that petition and remanded the case back to the District Court for prosecution.
Justice was also found guilty after a bench trial in state court stemming from similar conduct in February 2016 and sentenced to 50 years. Richards also pleaded guilty to three charges in state court stemming from the same conduct and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The Houston Police Department originally investigated the matter and worked in conjunction with the Houston Office of the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Zack prosecuted the case, while trial attorney John Pellettieri of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division handled the appeal.