The Supreme Court issued a decision on April 20, 2010 declaring a federal law against the creation, sale or possession of depictions of animal cruelty for commercial gain to be "substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment." In June 2009, ALDF filed an amicus curiae brief in this case, United States v. Stevens, and ALDF attorneys continue to be active on this legislative issue.
In response to the Supreme Court's decision, new federal legislation has been introduced by Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA) that will prohibit the sale, or offering for sale, of animal crush videos in interstate or foreign commerce.
"Crush videos" cater to sexual fetishists who want to watch and hear animals being crushed to death – usually by women wearing spiked heels. The clandestine and anonymous nature of their filming, along with statutes of limitations, severely limits law enforcement's ability to pursue the individuals engaging in these heinous criminal cruelties at the level of conduct. A law targeting the market for these abhorrent depictions gives law enforcement a much-needed tool for stemming the proliferation of these videos.
What You Can Do
Please send an email to your representatives in Washington through ALDF's website -- encourage them to support HR 5092 and thank those who are already cosponsoring the bill. Let them know that as a voting constituent, you expect and appreciate that they understand the gravity of animal cruelty issues in our society.
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A case charged under 18 U.S.C. §48 went to trial for the first time in 2005. In the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, on January 13, 2005, a jury convicted Robert J. Stevens on three counts of knowingly selling depictions of animal cruelty for the purpose of commercial gain. A 2004 federal investigation had revealed Stevens’ involvement in the production and distribution of videos that depicted dogfighting and related practices, and on March 2, 2004, a grand jury had indicted him under 18 U.S.C. §48.
On appeal, the Third Judicial Circuit vacated Mr. Stevens’ conviction, stating in their July 2008 opinion that “18 U.S.C. § 48 is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” In December 2008, the Solicitor General’s office petitioned the Supreme Court to review the Third Circuit’s opinion, observing that, “Because the court of appeals’ decision nullifies an important Act of Congress designed to assist the States in addressing the serious nationwide problem of animal cruelty, review by this Court is warranted.” The Supreme Court agreed to consider the issue, and oral arguments were heard on October 6, 2009.