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The Conviction of an Animal Torture Porn Star Is Precedent-Setting

Ashley Richards, also known as Ebony Crush Goddess, is the first to be convicted under a federal anti-crush porn law.

by Virginia Pelley
Sep 10 2015, 1:58pm

Richards, left, and Justice. Image: Houston Police Department

A woman serving a 10-year sentence in a Texas prison for her role in the creation of crush porn videos in which she urinated upon, slowly tortured and chopped up live dogs, cats, rabbits, and mice made legal history this week.

Ashley Richards, now 24, pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday morning to five counts in violation of the Animal Crush Prohibition Act, signed into law in 2010.

Previously: The People Who Get Off to Crush Porn

Richards will be the first person prosecuted at the federal level for violating these laws, which criminalize the creation, sale and marketing of videos "in which one or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury, and is obscene."

As Motherboard reported in May, the specification that the videos be labeled obscene was meant to address the overbroadness of previous anti-crush legislation that resulted in cases being dismissed because the crush material was ruled to have free speech protections.

Richards might be able to get a reduced sentence if she agrees to provide information on human trafficking, The Houston Chronicle reported.

"Richards has admitted to creating and distributing videos that involve puppies, chickens and kittens being tortured and killed."

Richards's attorney, Joyce Raynor, told Motherboard that she can't discuss the possibility of her client being an informant or why Richards would have this knowledge because it might jeopardize her safety.

As for why she pleaded guilty, Raynor said in an email, "Based on the 5th Circuit's ruling explicating the statute under which Ms. Richards is being charged, we believe the prosecution would be able to meet its burden of proof in convicting Ms. Richards of the crimes charged."

"Richards has admitted to creating and distributing videos that involve puppies, chickens and kittens being tortured and killed. The videos are titled 'puppy1,' 'puppy 2,' 'whitechick1,' 'whitechick2, 'whitechick3,' 'blackluvsample,' 'adammeetseve' and 'adammeetseve2' and were created at varying times between February 2010 and August 2012," according to a US Department of Justice press release.

"Ashley and Brent were unique because they were American, and that wasn't something we had ever seen before," says Deanna Thompson, a member of the Animal Beta Project (ABP), a nonprofit group that investigates cases of online animal cruelty on a volunteer basis.

ABP worked with PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) to alert authorities in Texas about the animal torture porn Richards was making with Brent Justice, whose court dates on state and federal charges are pending.

"Usually these videos come from Asia," Thompson explains. "And because we can't do much about crush made there, we usually have to turn a blind eye, for lack of a better term, because we have no means to investigate anything in those countries."

The case will set a precedent for crush porn makers. "This guilty plea sends a clear message that perpetrators of this heinous crime can—and will—face serious consequences for such unspeakable violence to animals," says Lora Dunn, an ALDF staff attorney.

When asked if the arrests of Richards and Justice in 2012 appear to have had a chilling effect on the amount of crush circulating online, Thompson is pragmatic.

"Have we seen fewer videos in circulation since Ashley and Brent? No, not really. They are still in heavy rotation, but again, mostly out of Asia," she says.

Richards's sentencing date is December 10, 2015. She could get seven years on each count as well as a possible $250,000 fine.