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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Animal Crush’ Case Could Go Federal

HOUSTON (CN) - Two Texans jailed for videos they made showing the torture and killing of puppies and kittens might be federally charged for the footage after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their case.

Ashley Nicole Richards, 24, and Brent Justice, 53, both of Houston, were indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2012, charged with several counts of making and distributing animal crush videos under the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010.

There's a photo of Richards online wearing a black bikini, a Mardi Gras mask and high heels stomping on what appears to be a dead cat.

Federal prosecutors claim Richards and Justice filmed and posted eight videos showing her torturing and killing puppies, chickens and kittens.

After U.S. District Judge Sim Lake tossed the animal crush charges on First Amendment grounds, the government appealed to the 5th Circuit, which reinstated the charges.

Richards and Justice appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to take up the case on Monday. The case was remanded to Lake, who has yet to set a trial date.

The filmmakers have been in state custody on related animal cruelty charges since their arrests on Aug. 15, 2012, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Richards was sentenced to 10 years in state prison after pleading guilty to three counts of animal cruelty . Justice is in Harris County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond. His state jury trial is set to start May 1.

The Supreme Court's decision is bad news for the duo because they face five federal animal crush charges. If they are convicted, each count carries a maximum sentence of seven years in federal prison, prosecutors said.

Both also face a possible $250,000 fine.

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