From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2005:
PITTSBURGH--Reaching a unanimous verdict in only 45
minutes, a federal jury on January 13, 2005 convicted video distributor
Robert Stevens of three counts of selling depictions of illegal cruelty to
animals across state lines.
The case was the first court test of 1999 legislation
introduced by Representative Elton Gallegly (R-California). U.S. Senior
District Judge Alan N. Bloch rejected federal public defender Michael
Novara's contentions that the law violated Stevens' First Amendment right
to freedom of expression, and that it was misapplied because the law was
introduced to address "wanton cruelty to animals designed to appeal to a
prurient interest in sex."
The law prohibits the interstate distribution of videos or
films depicting illegal cruelty to animals, if they are without "serious
religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical,
or art value."
Stevens, 64, of Pittsville, Virginia, in 2003 sold two
videotapes of dogfights and one video of a "hog/dog rodeo" to
investigators for the Pennsylvania State Police and USDA Office of the
Inspector General. Stevens advertised the videos for sale in the Sporting
Dog Journal, whose publisher James Fricchione, 34, was convicted in March
2004 of six felonies and five misdemeanors for allegedly promoting
Setting Stevens' sentencing for April 21, Bloch ordered
him to surrender to the court any pit bull terriers he owns by January 24,
and to refrain from any involvement in training, breeding, selling or
otherwise dealing with pit bulls. Stevens also may not associate with any
other persons involved in such activities, and may not sell any equipment
that might be used to train dogs to fight.
Brian Haaser, USDA Office of the Inspector General chief
special agent-in-charge of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Region, said in
a prepared statement that the "landmark investigation and conviction will
open the doors" to further prosecutions of alleged dogfighters based on
seizures of videotaped evidence.
The Gallegly bill was introduced in response to public
outrage over Internet sales of "crush videos, "depicting animals being
crushed to death by scantily clad women and transvestites. The traffic
came to light when British Customs in mid-1997 intercepted several videos
mailed by one "Jeff Vilencia" of "Squish Productions" in California.
British Customs took the videos to Martin Daly of the
Royal SPCA. Daly eventually enlisted investigative help from Cassandra
Brown of the London Sunday Telegraph.
Unaware of that case, then-America Online "Animals &
Society" host Susan Roghair, now producer of Animal Rights Online,
independently discovered several web sites which promoted and sold crush
videos. Roghair in October 1997 sought help from ANIMAL PEOPLE, PETA,
AnimalTalk host Dick Weevil, and Ohio animal rights attorney Shawn
Thomas--who turned out to be pursuing a parallel investigation of his own,
after finding some of the same web sites.
On October 6, 1997, at Thomas' request, ANIMAL PEOPLE
postponed publishing an article about crush videos to avoid jeopardizing
Cassandra Brown in November 1997 scooped ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Learning thereby of the British investigation, ANIMAL PEOPLE introduced
the British and American investigators by e-mail.
Unknown to any other investigators, the Suffolk County
SPCA was separately closing in on crush video producer Thomas Capriola,
30, of Islip Terrace, Long Island. Two days after Capriola was arrested in
May 1998, ANIMAL PEOPLE introduced the Suffolk County SPCA investigators
to Daly, Thomas, and Roghair.
Capriola in December 2000 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor
cruelty to animals and fifth-degree possession of marijuana, and was
sentenced to serve 280 hours of community service with three years on
The original investigation brought the August 1999 arrests
and eventual plea bargain convictions of "crush video" star Diane Aileen
Chaffin, 35, of La Puente, California, and producer Gary Lynn Thomason,
48, of Anaheim. Each drew a year in jail and three years on probation.
Convicted in Britain were Craig Chapman, 27, Christine
Besford, 26, Sarah Goode, 22, and Tharaza Smallwood, 22. Chapman was in
May 2002 sentenced to serve two years in jail. The three women drew four
months each. All four defendants were also fined and banned for life from
Following the money
Dogfighting, hog/dog rodeo, cockfighting, and the sale of
videotapes of fights and training methods are all magnitudes larger than
the crush video industry. Affirmation that animal fighting can be attacked
by prosecuting the video distributors allows law enforcement to strike at
a revenue source for animal fighters which is much more vulnerable to
interception than either betting on fights or the cash-only commerce in
Intercepting either gambling or animal transactions
requires putting an undercover investigator inside the activity, among
people who are typically also involved in drug trafficking and other types
of violent crime. This is slow and high-risk work.
Intercepting videos by contrast involves no more risk than routine
inspection of materials transmitted by post and other common carriers.
Confirmation of the high stakes involved in animal
fighting came on January 19, 2005 in Columbia, South Carolina, when former
state agriculture commissioner Charles Sharpe, 66, formally resigned, six
months after he was suspended, and pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe of
$10,000 from the South Carolina Gamefowl Management Association, to
protect a cockfighting venue near Spartanburg.
Sharpe was originally charged with accepting as much as
$26,000 in 2001-2002. A November 2003 raid on the site seized $50,000 in
cash and brought citations against 118 persons found at a cockfight. South
Carolina 6th Circuit Judge Kenneth Goode on January 19, 2005 upped the
ante for prosecuting an alleged hog/dog ring by ordering that 95 dogs
seized on December 17, 2004 be kept alive, at least until a court date is
set. The order will significantly increase the cost of pursuing the case.
A conviction could oblige the defendants to make
restitution, but the most recent precedent was not encouraging, as 8th
Circuit Judge Wyatt T. Saunders on December 17, 2004 reduced from $150,000
to $80,000 the restitution assessed to convicted dogfighter David Ray Tant
for the care of 49 pit bull terriers between his April 2004 arrest and his
November 2004 plea bargain sentencing.
Tant, 57, was sent to prison for 40 years. He can get five
years off for paying $20,000, and 10 years off for paying the full amount,
but may never pay any of it, since most of his assets have been seized by
the Internal Revenue Service.
The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division and USDA
had placed the dogs seized on December 17 in custody of Chester County
Animal Control and representatives of the Humane Society of the U.S.
Fifteen hogs seized in the raid were left on the premises
of suspects Arthur Parker Sr., 47, his son Arthur Parker Jr., 20, and Mary
Evans Luther, 50, all of the same address in Fort Lawn. All three were
charged with felony animal fighting and baiting.
Arrested later were Thomas Gene Guffey, 29, of Huddelston,
Virginia, for allegedly attending an illegal animal fight, and Chester
County animal control director Vicky Stultz Land, 47.
Land was charged with animal fighting and baiting and
misconduct in office. State Law Enforcement Division agent Jack Rushing
III testified at Land's arraignment that investigators became aware of her
involvement in March and April of 2004.
Land's attorney, Leland Greeley, acknowledged that on
September 11, 2004 Land attended a hog/dog contest with five officers of
the Chester County sheriff's office, wrote Denyse Clark of the Rock Hill
Herald, but Greeley contended that she was there in the line of duty.
Land was videotaped attending a hog/dog contest on October
16, 2004, Rushing told the court.
The South Carolina arrests were part of a three-state
coordinated crackdown on hog/dogging.
Richard Lee Landers Jr. and his wife Shina Giles Landers,
of Warrior, Alabama, were charged with misdemeanor cruelty. Seven dogs
were seized from them. They allegedly operated a web site that promoted
James M. Curry and Jodi Marie Curry-Liesburg, of Phoenix,
Arizona, were reportedly charged with child abuse, cruelty to animals, and
drug and weapons offenses. Yavapai County Child Protective Services took
three children into custody. Thirty-two Russian boars and 17 dogs were
On January 18, Mississippi state senator Sidney Albritton
(R-Picayune) and visiting Louisiana state representative Warren Triche
(D-Thibodaux) urged fellow legislators to join Florida, Alabama, and
Louisiana in specifically banning hog/dog rodeo. Albritton has introduced
a bill, state SB 2354, modeled on the Louisiana hog/dog rodeo ban authored
by Triche in 2004.
Editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE
P.O. Box 960
Clinton, WA 98236
E-mail: [email protected]
[ANIMAL PEOPLE is the leading independent newspaper
providing original investigative coverage of animal protection worldwide,
founded in 1992. Our readership of 30,000-plus includes the
decision-makers at more than 10,000 animal protection organizations. We
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