Federal prosecutors have dropped the two remaining obscenity charges against alleged animal crush video producers Ashley Richards and Brent Justice and filed a notice of appeal on five counts previously tossed out by a federal judge.
The defendants are set to be transferred from federal to state custody; a federal prosecutor said at one of two hearings today that the Harris County District Attorney's Office has refiled animal cruelty charges, but a spokesperson for the Office could not confirm that for the Houston Press.
Judge Sim Lake earlier dismissed five counts filed under the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010, calling the law overbroad and a violation of free speech. That law required a finding of obscenity. The remaining two charges also required a finding of obscenity -- but under a different statute -- making them a tad, well, redundant. (Frankly, we didn't understand why those last two obscenity charges were even filed, but the U.S. Attorney's Office won't bother talking to us about such picayune matters -- after all, it's not like they're public servants or anything).
We'll update if and when we hear back from the D.A.'s Office.
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Update: D.A.'s Office Spokeswoman Sara Kinney confirmed that cruelty charges have been re-filed. She explained that prosecutors wanted to wait until the federal charges had been resolved before re-filing state charges.
Richards has been charged with five counts, and Justice with one count, of cruelty to animals. Each count carries a two-year maximum sentence. We think it's a shame that Justice has only one count against him. According to his daughter, he had produced crush videos with a previous girlfriend; Richards hadn't made any videos prior to meeting Richards that we're aware of.
Also, based on an investigator's testimony in federal court, Justice had been trying to recruit a woman he met online to make videos. As far as we can tell, Richards would have never been involved in this stuff had she not met Justice.
Richards and Justice are scheduled to be arraigned May 22.