On September 8, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced that Ashley Nicole Richards pleaded guilty to five counts of producing and distributing crush videos that depicted the torturing and killing of dogs and cats. Richards, along with Brent Justice, was originally arrested on state cruelty charges in August 2012; both were transferred to federal custody that November for the first prosecution under the new crush video law passed in 2010. (A previous federal statute criminalizing the commercial production, sale, or possession of depictions of cruelty to animals was struck down by the US Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds.) The crush video charges were dismissed after the district court cited constitutionality issues with the new law, as well. This time, however, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling, and the US Supreme Court affirmed. At her sentencing in December, Richards faces up to 7 years in federal prison on each count, as well as a $250,000 fine. She is currently serving 10 years on the state charges. Her accomplice continues to face state and federal charges and remains in jail.
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