S.D. Texas Dismisses Indictment Brought Under “Animal Crush Video” Statute Revised after Stevens

April 23rd, 2013

The opinion is here.

Here is the introduction:

Defendants Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice (collectively, “Defendants”) were indicted on five counts of violating the federal “animal crush video” statute, 18 U.S.C. § 48 (effective Dec. 9, 2010). Pending before the court are Brent Justicef s Motion to Dismiss (Docket Entry No. 29) and Ashley Nicole Richards’ Motion to Dismiss (Docket Entry No. 30). Defendants contend that § 48 abridges the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. For the reasons explained further below, the court agrees. The court will there- fore grant Defendantsf motions to dismiss.

And the conclusion:

The acts depicted in animal crush videos are disturbing and horrid. But “[tlhe history of the law of free expression is one of vindication in cases involving speech that many citizens may find shabby, offensive, or even ugly.” Plavbov, 120 S. Ct. at 1893. The court concludes that the speech proscribed by § 48 does not fall within either categorical exclusion invoked by the United States. Furthermore, the court concludes that § 48 cannot withstand strict scrutiny and therefore abridges the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.

Politico reports that this is the first case brought under the revised crush statute since Stevens.