In what is believed to be the first test of the law, a Virginia man was convicted in Pennsylvania in January for selling dogfighting videos.
A jury took just 45 minutes to convict Robert Stevens, 64, of three counts of selling videos that depict animal cruelty. This is believed to be the first prosecution under a 1999 law banning such videos.
Stevens did not attempt to dispute the facts in the case, but instead his lawyer argued that the videos are protected under the First Amendment. The law makes exceptions for videos that have “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value,” and Stevens’ attorney argued that the dogfighting videos had historical value, though the jury disagreed with him.
Another interesting twist is that some of the videos were filmed in Japan, where dogfighting is apparently not illegal.
There was no indication as to whether or not Stevens plans to appeal his conviction. He’d probably have a number of avenues for such an appeal, including that when the law was originally passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, it was clearly intended to outlaw “crush” videos in which animals are trampled to death for the sexual gratification of the viewer. Here, however, even the prosecution conceded there was no sexual intent to the videos distributed by Stevens.
Ban on videos of animal cruelty tested. Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 12, 2005.
Virginia man guilty of selling depictions of animal cruelty. Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 14, 2005.