A Houston couple have received lengthy prison terms for their role in producing so-called “Crush Videos” – that is, pornographic videos depicting the brutal torture and killing of animals.
As The Houston Chronicle reports, 54-year-old Brent Justice, and his girlfriend, Ashley Richards, 25, were arrested in 2012 after a complaint from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). A criminal investigation would later reveal that Justice and Richards had produced dozens of “Crush Videos,” in which Richards would violently abuse various animals while engaging in various sex acts and making sexual remarks to the camera.
Warning: The next part of this post contains graphic descriptions of animal torture.
In one video, according to The Houston Press, Richards, wearing a mask, can be seen feeding a small pit bull puppy. The video ends with Richards urinating on the dog’s corpse, with the animal’s head having been cut off. Propriety forbids describing what happened between the beginning and the end of the video, but at one point Justice’s arm enters the frame, handing Richards a knife. When the video was shown at trial, even the judge had to look away when the dog was decapitated.
In another video, Richards can be seen puncturing a kitten’s eye with the heel of a high-heeled shoe.
In other videos, Richards can be seen stabbing animals (including puppies, kittens, and a chicken), tearing off or chopping off their limbs, and urinating on their corpses.
In at least three videos, the animals were murdered specifically for paying customers who paid for live sessions.
The “Crush Video” Fetish
The Houston couple aren’t the only people to have made and disseminated so-called “crush videos.” In fact, an entire sub-culture exists where viewers watch videos of animals being maimed, tortured, and murdered – often by crushing, hence the term “Crush Videos” – for sexual gratification.
Makers of “Crush Videos,” until 2010, were able to skirt animal cruelty laws in making the videos by marketing them as “animal sacrifice” or “ritual” videos. However, in 2010 the Obama administration passed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act. Richards and Justice are two of the first people prosecuted under the act.
In 2013, Justice and Richards were both charged under the act. However, a federal judge dismissed the charges on the grounds that the “Crush Videos” were protected free speech, but in 2015, the charges were re-instated.
Justice acted as his own attorney during his trial, firing at least three defense attorneys appointed to him. He tried a variety of delay tactics, including filing useless motions and at one time even faking a heart attack.
He also tried to pass off a video in which a dog was killed, saying the animal was killed in accordance with Old Testament requirements for the slaughter of animals. To counter his claim, the prosecution brought in a rabbi, who testified that Jewish scripture does not allow for the slaughter of dogs. The rabbi also inspected the knife, before the judge, fed up with the scene, ordered an end to Justice’s attempt at justifying his crime.
Richards, 24, has pleaded guilty to the charges. She faces up to seven years in prison, although she is a person of interest in a human trafficking case and may be able to get a lesser sentence in exchange for her testimony in the unrelated case.
Justice was sentenced this week to 50 years in prison for animal cruelty charges.
[Image via Houston Police Department via Houston Chronicle]