HOUSTON, TX – A kitten crushing fetish video led to the first ever convictions under the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act. Ashley Nicole Richards pleaded guilty last September to four counts of creating crush videos and one count of distribution of these videos. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Part of her plea bargain included testifying against her then partner in crime, 55-year-old Brent Justice, the camera man.
The videos created and distributed online by the pair showed the torture and killing of small animals including kittens, puppies, and chickens. “Crush videos are part of a fetish subculture, with videos circulating online, often under the guise of ritual sacrifices,” FBI officials said. The woman featured in the videos, identified as Richards was “scantily clad” wearing a Marti Gras-type mask while making sexual comments, officials said.
The case was investigated by the Houston Police Department when they received a tip from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA. The Houston Police officer working on the investigation into the report, Officer Suzanne Hollifield quickly identified both Richards and Justice when viewing the videos. “I knew what crush videos were, I had been trained to recognize them, but I never expected to see something like that in my career,” said Hollifield, a 22-year police veteran who served on her department’s animal cruelty squad.
Holifield said the investigation into the case was difficult being that she had to view the horrific videos numerous times in order to identify the Justice and Richards. Hollifield sent the digital evidence to the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory where FBI prosecutors determined that the case met the threshold for the 2010 statute. This discovery ignited the FBI investigation.
The FBI determined that the pair had customers all over the United States and through other countries. “They were corresponding with people around the world and selling these videos,” said Special Agent David Ko, who was on the Houston FBI’s violent crime squad at the time. “They would ask Richards to put on certain clothing and perform certain acts and send her money. And then she would buy a certain animal and torture and kill it.” Email correspondence with links, sample video, and money wire transaction information, as well as a crush video played in court, were all part of the evidence presented. One, which included a sample video said, “It is very cruel video with lots of action and sexy scenes you will like,” the e-mail stated. “Let me know if you like it and what you can afford.”
Justice was sentenced in Houston to five years in prison for making the videos between February 2010 and August 2013. Justice was then found guilty in state court in February and sentenced to 50 years in prison and convicted of federal charges in May sentencing him to 57 months in prison. “It’s extremely violent. It’s tough to watch,” said Ko, who reviewed more than 16 hours of video to prepare for the original grand jury indictments in 2012. “It’s gratifying to know they’re arrested, behind bars, and not doing these types of crimes anymore.”
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