| Crime |

Finally, a Federal Conviction for Man Behind Animal Torture Videos

Update, Aug. 19: Brent Justice was sentenced to 57 months in federal court, the Houston Chronicle reports. The sentence will run concurrently with his 50-year state animal cruelty charges. 

A Houston man convicted of state animal cruelty charges related to the production of animal torture videos has now been found guilty in federal court.

Brent Wayne Justice, 54, was convicted Monday on three counts of producing and one count of producing "crush" videos in which Justice's co-defendant, Ashley Nicole Richards, slowly hacked apart dogs, cats and other animals for paying customers.

Richards's federal trial was a long time coming:  U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake, who presided over Justice's one-day bench trial, originally tossed the crush video charges in 2013, calling the federal statute overbroad and unconstitutional. At the time, Justice and Richards were believed to be the first people charged under the 2010 law. But that decision was overturned by an appellate court in 2014, which found that "Congress has a significant interest in preventing the secondary effects of animal crush videos, which promote and require violence and criminal activity."

Justice is scheduled to be sentenced August 18, and faces up to seven years per count, as well as a $250,000 fine. In February, Justice was sentenced to 50 years on the state charges following a six-day trial in which he represented himself, halting proceedings at one point by claiming he had chest pains. 

Richards testified against Justice in both trials, and she also pleaded guilty in both courts. She was sentenced to ten years on the state charges and 33 months on the federal charges, but given credit for the 42 months she spent in jail waiting for trial. 

We're glad this is finally over. One thing to remember, though: The couple's customers are still out there. 

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