A former Navy petty officer faces up to seven years in federal prison after pleading guilty this week to sharing a video of puppies being drowned in a river to an unnamed recipient in Montana.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents got a tip in June 2016 that Daniel James O’Sullivan, 26, stationed at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, had videos showing the torture and slaying of animals, Houston U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick’s office said.
“O’Sullivan admitted he distributed a video to an individual in Montana that depicted the drowning of puppies in a river. That individual admitted to receiving the video,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Law enforcement searched O’Sullivan’s devices and found other disturbing videos.
“In one video, a dog’s mouth is closed with duct tape as it is set on fire. In another, a dog is thrown off a high-rise building. Other videos depict mice and baby chicks being ground up in a blender,” prosecutors said.
O’Sullivan, who has been less than honorably discharged, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of distributing an animal crush video.
Federal law prohibits the distribution across state lines or to foreign countries of videos or photos that depict “actual conduct in which 1 or more living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians is intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury,” according to the criminal information against O’Sullivan.
An animal cruelty law that Congress passed in 1999 was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2010 as overly vague and broad, in violation of the First Amendment. Congress amended the statute and President Barack Obama signed it in December 2010.
O’Sullivan’s is the second animal crush case prosecuted in the Southern District of Texas since the amendment.
Two Houston residents were indicted by a federal grand jury in November 2012, charged with several counts of making and selling videos that show one of them torturing and killing puppies, chickens and kittens.
Ashley Nicole Richards, 27, pleaded guilty to five counts in that case and was sentenced to time served by a federal judge. She is serving a 10-year state prison sentence for making the crush videos.
Her co-defendant in the federal indictment, Brent Justice, 56, who produced, filmed and sold videos on the internet of Richards torturing and killing animals while she wore high heels, bikinis and Mardi Gras masks, was sentenced to 50 years in state prison in February 2016 after unsuccessfully arguing that a puppy in one of the videos was killed according to kosher rules observed by Orthodox Jews.
A federal judge sentenced Justice to 57 months in federal prison in August 2016.
Prosecutors said Richards and Justice were the first people that federal prosecutors indicted under the amended animal crush law.
O’Sullivan faces up to seven years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 fine at his Aug. 2 sentencing.