Man Convicted of Selling Animal-Cruelty Videos
Fri Jan 14, 8:44 AM ET - Reuters
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A pit bull enthusiast who sold videos of dogfights and dogs attacking a pig became the first person on Thursday to be convicted under a federal law banning depictions of cruelty to animals, prosecutors said.
Robert Stevens, 64, of Pittsville, Virginia, was found guilty in a Pittsburgh court of selling three videos a jury decided violated the ban on depicting the intentional maiming, mutilation or torture of animals or any wounding or killing.
Under the law, signed by President Bill Clinton (news - web sites) in 1999, prosecutors must also prove such videos have no serious educational, historical or scientific value.
Stevens who runs a company called Dogs of Velvet and Steel, also sold "break sticks" and "spring poles," which are used to condition pit bulls for fighting. Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states.
Stevens advertised the videos in an underground dog-fighting paper called the Sporting Dog Journal, which reports the results of illegal dog fights.
He was caught by undercover law enforcement officials posing as customers.
"This dangerous and inhumane crime promotes violence and degrades our community," said Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. attorney for Western Pennsylvania, in a statement after the verdict. "Justice has been done in a very serious case."
U.S. District Judge Alan Bloch also banned Stevens from owning, breeding, training or selling pit bulls or possessing any device used in dog fighting.
The court rejected Stevens' argument that banning the videos denied his First Amendment rights of free speech.
Stevens faces up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $750,000. His
sentencing was set for April 21.