(CN) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday voided a law that bans “crush videos,” or movies that show small animals being crushed by humans for sexual pleasure, as too broad and in violation of the First Amendment. The 8-1 vote overturns the conviction of a Virginia man for selling videos of pit bulls in dog fights.
Congress had passed the law to target so-called “crush videos,” or movies that highlight a fetish that involves people stomping on small animals for sexual arousal. “According to the House Committee Report on the bill, such videos feature the intentional torture and killing of helpless animals, including dogs, monkeys, mice and hamsters,” the ruling states. “Crush videos often depict women slowly crusing animals to death ‘with their bare feet or while wearing high heeled shoes,’ sometimes while ‘talking to the animals in a kind of dominatrix patter’ over ‘[t]he cries and squeals of the animals, obviously in great pain.'”
But the law’s language went too far, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, and is “substantially overbroad … and invalid under the First Constitution.”
In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito feared the ruling would legalize crush videos and “spur a resumption of their production.”
The lawsuit was brought by Robert Stevens, an author and documentarian who sells educational materials about pit bulls. He was indicted after officials purchased three videos from him through the mail that showed a pit bull fighting and another where a pit bull attacks a domestic farm pig.
Stevens was convicted under the crush video laws and sentenced to just over three years in prison. The en banc Third Circuit overturned the conviction, saying the law was unconstitutional.