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We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.

Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704

Articles

Crush Video Auteur Stands Trial

Animal rights activists plan protest of Long Island DA's lenient charge against porn videos peddler.

By Robert Masterson

Published 12/30/99

Local animal rights activists are planning to rally and protest at the Jan. 14 trial of Thomas (last name withheld because he has since repented for his cruel actions), a Long Island man accused of making and selling "crush videos," a bizarre subgenre of the amateur pornography market that presents high-heeled women crushing small animals to death. The protest at Suffolk County's First District Courthouse in Central Islip will center on both the practice of videotaping for profit this cruel sexual fetish and the Suffolk County District Attorney's charging of Thomas with a single count of cruelty to animals.

"I got the call at home early in the morning," recalled Chief Roy Gross of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, describing Thomas' May 1998 arrest. "My wife came to me and said, 'You've got to take this call' and started telling me what it was about. I said, 'Come on. What are you telling me?' I had never heard of anything like that before in my life. I don't think there's a word to describe what these people were doing... It was absolutely horrible to review these tapes so we could charge him. It was the most incredible thing I've ever seen in my life." What these people were doing is creating masturbation fantasies for a worldwide market.

Thomas is accused of hiring women to wear high heels and destroy a variety of small animals--among them guinea pigs, mice, turtles, frogs--while being videotaped from the knees down. "Apparently, that's what it is," Gross continued. "They get dressed up in high-heels and the foreplay is fondling the animal with the heels, slowly touching it with the heels and they get a little more aggressive. Then they torture [the animals] by jabbing the heel into their bodies and then eventually crush them and smash them into nothing, just squash them right into the floor...The idea here was to make money. He was selling these videotapes for anywhere from $35 to $100 a piece. He was marketing them through the Internet.

As a matter of fact, we got a letter from Scotland Yard congratulating us for busting him. They'd been trying to nail this guy for a long time. We grabbed his shipping records for sales out-of- state and out of the country; it's unbelievable to think that not only was he making these videos but that there's such a market for them." Both animal-rights activists and politicians have been working to curb the growing popularity of "crush videos" with new legislation designed to punish the traders.

For Thomas, however, these laws come too late. Despite the fact that New York State made this activity felonious in November of this year, despite the fact that federal law prohibiting the production and sale of "crush videos" has just been signed into law by President Clinton, Thomas' arrest took place while his crimes were still considered misdemeanors and he appears to have "grandfathered" his way out of a serious offense. "It's a $1,000 fine and a year in jail for each offense, but what the actual charge is going to be is up to the [Suffolk County] District Attorney," Gross explained.

"[Thomas] could have thousands of counts; if you look through the videos for every animal that was tortured or mutilated and killed and if he's charged on each one and they all stick...hypothetically he could go away for years and years. It's not up to us [the SPCA] but, of course, we would like to see him get the maximum for something this horrendous." However, the court will only be hearing a single count of animal cruelty (an unclassified misdemeanor) brought against Thomas. Why have the hundreds, if not thousands, of killings documented on his homemade snuff films elicited separate charges? "The evidence we have will support only the one particular charge," Ed Flaherty, Assistant District Attorney for the court, said.

Tying this individual to the deaths of all the animals will require more evidence. Even if we had a thousand counts, the sentences would all merge in any case; you can only serve two years of local time." Thomas also faces a single count of harassment in the second degree (a violation punishable by a fine of up to $250 and/or 15 days in jail) and a single count of criminal possession of marijuana (a class B misdemeanor carrying a penalty of 90 days in jail or 60 to 355 days of probation). However, in an affidavit attached to the charging document and dated April 30, 1998, Vanessa Moore of Patchogue describes her involvement in more than 100 incidents wherein she was videotaped while crushing frogs, mice, lizards and rats. "After drinking six or seven beers, I became intoxicated," Moore testified. "After I was drunk, [Thomas] tied up small frogs and put them on the floor and marked them with white-out.

[He] then told me to crush the frogs and grind and twist a lot with my feet. He then said if I told anyone he'd get mad. He had me do this about 20 times to other animals which became larger..." After she drew the line at guinea pigs, Thomas replaced Moore, hired another woman and, when necessary, dressed himself up for the role.

Thirty-six videos were produced in this fashion, according to the young woman. "I have seen [Thomas] crush approximately 40 mice, four rats and four guinea pigs," Moore continued. "When [he] dresses as a woman, he calls himself 'Debby.' " The relatively slight punishment for such outrageous violations seems to strike local animal rights activists as more than a little outrageous in and of itself. And that slight punishment is only possible if Thomas goes to trial and is convicted. His Dec. 14 trial was adjourned while the judge considers a motion to suppress evidence based on search warrant issues filed by Thomas' attorney, Paul Gianelli. "He had drugs in there--marijuana," said Gross, describing Thomas' room where he lived and operated his movie studio in his mother's house. "He had weapons, but we couldn't charge him for them...He had all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault weapons...but he was in legal possession of these. He had Nazi paraphernalia on his wall--a picture of a storm trooper. He had a fish tank full of live mice in his room.

His mother said she had no knowledge of what he was doing. We have the videos, we have his computer, and we took it right out of there."

Animal rights activists reacted strongly to the news that Thomas might escape with only minimal, if any, punitive action from the state.

"There's a special place in hell for [Thomas]. He's beyond monster," said ADOW, a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and a fierce Yonkers activist. "They [the Suffolk County District Attorney's office] dropped the ball big time.

They have the tools to take care of people like this, they have the evidence and they have the wherewithal to charge him to a much greater degree. Why aren't they doing this? Possibly they don't realize what a good part of the world is coming to see. Some people in the world are realizing that these are sentient creatures. Other people, some people on Long Island, are still back in the dark ages where animals were considered property. Other places--California, the Bronx--have started to utilize every possible law to prosecute."

"These crush videos are produced and promoted by a depravity that is incomprehensible to most of us," said Louis Gedo, an In Defense of Animals representative from the Bronx. "We want to see Thomas prosecuted for animal cruelty to fullest extent of the law. Let his trial be a message to supporters of this sordid practice that their fetish will not be tolerated and they should seek psychological help rather than sick gratification."


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