Cover Story: Federal Animal "Crush" Law Tested in Houston

Categories: Cover Story

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In December 2012, two Houstonians became the first defendants charged under the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, which criminalizes the production and distribution of images of animal cruelty.

Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Wayne Justice were originally charged in Harris County District Court with animal cruelty, which carries a two-year maximum sentence. But the District Attorney's Office soon dropped the charges without comment -- perhaps out of deference to the much steeper sentencing the couple faced in federal court.

But then something happened that shocked animal welfare advocates: U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake tossed all the counts under the 2010 law, declaring it in violation of the First Amendment.

Judge Lake found that, in crafting the statute, Congress overreached and tried to carve out a new category of unprotected speech, which aligned with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the 1999 law that the current one replaced.

Congress believed both laws were necessary as tools to prosecute the producers and distributors, since the on-screen participants doing the actual torture and killing are often difficult to locate and identify. Such was not the case with Richards and Justice, who are tied to the videos by a massive amount of evidence (including Richards' own admissions).

The District Attorney's Office can always reinstate the cruelty charges, and we hope they do. As described in this week's cover story, "Open Season," the videos are highly disturbing. But if Judge Lake's ruling is upheld by higher courts, it appears that such filmed demonstrations of wanton animal cruelty might very well be considered protected speech.

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12 comments
HeidiC
HeidiC

Judge Sim Lake 713-250-5177

animalsmatter2
animalsmatter2 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Americans and their Freedom of Speech! It should be a privilege and not a right. Use your speech for good things to happen in this world not bad things like the insane cruelty animals suffer at the hands of sick people and now claiming the first amendment.m. Get a grip.

somethingspecial.jam
somethingspecial.jam like.author.displayName 1 Like

Laws should be changed for the better good for all animals mammals and wildlife,  also all judges who show this low brainless no empathy scum bag attitude should never be allowed to pass judgement on anything.....this judge is very sick in the mind and we the people should not allow him to continue at this job.

somethingspecial.jam
somethingspecial.jam

I signed time ago a petition for this a long ago , anybody know what happened to this story ???

Nona1
Nona1 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

This Judge is sick. When did this kind of " free speech" supersede animal torture.?  What a disgusting sick judge , he needs to be hung just like anyone doing these videos..  

untouchablehitman
untouchablehitman like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I think the simple minded judge should be prosecuted  along with these two No respect for life sub humans

redroserentals
redroserentals like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

THE JUDGE NEEDS TO GO!! HE MUST BE A SICK PERVERT ALSO!!

The Judge must be a fan of crush videos also. I bet he goes to third world countries and has sex with young children. There are allot of those types of people out there. Some say there are even societies for these neanderthals. The world has more sickos in it than we know. Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice: Federal Judge Says Videos of Chopping Dog's Head With Meat Cleaver is "Protected Speech."

they_will_get_theirs
they_will_get_theirs like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

petitions are great and all but it's going to take legal action to make this change. http://www.stopcrush.org has a lawyer that's willing to take this on at a severely reduced rate. you can donate through their site.

simon_fay
simon_fay

Hard to believe a society that can breed such life and husband it with such an extensive & lucrative system of vested interests could ever hope to return to the Moon - unless it's to make a snuff film with a Rainbow cast.

saffie6813
saffie6813 like.author.displayName 1 Like

What a surprise.  It won't be long before they will be saying that the Constitution gives us the right to kill just about anybody and anything. Nobody and nothing is safe in this country anymore. When the courts and the NRA are finished giving everyone the freedom to do everything, I think I might need to purchase a gun myself,   If and when  we wake up, it will be too damn late..

somethingspecial.jam
somethingspecial.jam like.author.displayName 1 Like

Sinwnr I will sign your petition.....bad judges should be held responsible for letting killers run free, animal cruelty and torture is not entertainment.... this is so sick and should be stoped now.

sinwnr
sinwnr like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

judge sim lake are you out of your mind ? are you just lazy ? you have no business being behind that robe how dear you use freedom of speech to protect theses murdering psychopaths  I am starting a petition today this is outrageous and unbelievable . we need to start holing the judges that release killers like this liable for there further offences .

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