From left: Robert Stevens, Stevens' book, Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin and Glen Bui.
Robert J. Stevens
Washington D.C. - On March 20, 2009, the defense team of Robert J. Stevens filed a Brief in Opposition for the pending United States Supreme Court's hearing of his case. In January 2005, Stevens was the first person found guilty of selling depictions of animal cruelty (dogfighting videos) under the 1999 federal animal cruelty law. He was sentenced to 37 months in prison. He appealed the case, which was subsequently overturned by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The U.S. government appealed the Circuit Court ruling and the case currently lies before the United States Supreme Court.1
The Brief in Opposition filed by the defense reveals information about Stevens' original trial. Two of the three people mentioned in the Brief were members of the American Canine Foundation (ACF): Expert Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin and acting ACF Vice President, Glen Bui. The document describes the ACF as an organization working to "end animal cruelty," when in fact, the organization is a pit bull special interest group that sues municipalities that enact pit bull laws.
During Stevens' trial, the ACF was actively engaged in litigation against Denver and Aurora regarding their pit bull bans, as well as the State of Ohio (Toledo v. Tellings) regarding their pit bull law. Glen Bui testified in the Stevens' trial that, "Mr. Stevens' films were 'extremely educational' and had serious historical value documenting the history of dogfighting and its cultural role in Japan." The jury rejected the defense's testimony and convicted Stevens in 45 minutes.
Why would a pro-pit bull group (working to "end animal cruelty") testify on behalf of a person that sold depictions of dogfighting?
Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, an expert witness for the ACF, also testified that the videos had serious "educational value." Brisbin is often quoted by pit bull advocates to dispel the "locking jaw" reputation pit bulls have gained, as well as the "pounds per square inch" bite power equation. Brisbin is a hog hunter (see: hog hunting video), and in 2007, testified on behalf of Ivan Ruiz, an alleged dog and cock fighter. After reviewing injury photos of Rivera's pit bull, Brisbin said:
"Those marks were more likely caused during a fence fight in which dogs will chew their way through a wood fence for better access. Fence fights are just a curse of owning a dog." Brisbin also said a treadmill, sticks used to separate dogs, wire muzzles, chains, harness and animal fighting publications found in Rivera's home are typical for dog breeders and kennel owners."
The American Canine Foundation now joins: Stop-BSL.com (Allie Renar), Responsible Dog Owners of the Eastern States (Sandra, Sandi Coy), Georgia American Pit Bull Terrier Club (Jere Alexander), Appalachian Pit Bull Club (Ed Faron), and the All American Dog Registry (Terry T. L. Williams) as anti-BSL organizations that DogsBite.org can tie to persons charged with (or convicted of) dogfighting related or animal cruelty crimes. These links, however, are just a snapshot of the larger picture.
United States of American v. Robert J. Stevens
Brief in Opposition
March 20, 2009
"At trial, Mr. Stevens presented expert testimony that each of the documentaries has substantial educational or historical value. Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Senior Ecologist and Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia, testified that each of the documentaries has serious educational value. C.A. App. 563, 579, 580, 582. Dr. Brisbin stated that he would use "Japan Pit Fights" and "Pick-A-Winna: A Pit Bull Documentary" in his teaching and testimony before governmental bodies to demonstrate that Pit Bulls can be trained to relate to humans even after they have participated in hunting or fighting. Id. at 582. Dr. Brisbin also testified that "Catch Dogs and Country Living" teaches Pit Bull owners the "responsibility to do things right" if they choose to train their dogs for hunting. Id. at 582.
Michael Riddle, a recognized expert in large-game hunting, C.A. App. 599-600, stated that he thought "Catch Dogs and Country Living" was "very educational" because it informs hunters how to train their dogs for hunting and prepares them for the errors that dogs can make. C.A. App. 604-605.
Glen Bui, acting Vice-President of the American Canine Foundation, an organization working to "end animal cruelty," Bui Dep. at 13:19-20, testified that Mr. Stevens' films were "extremely educational" and had serious historical value documenting the history of dog fighting and its cultural role in Japan. Id. at 13:32-34.1 He also explained that images from Mr. Stevens' films had been extracted and used by animal rights organizations to campaign against dog fighting. Id. at 14:12-13.
After hearing that testimony, the jury was instructed, over Mr. Stevens' objection, that the statutory exception for images with "serious" religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value applies only to images that are "significant and of great import." C.A. App. 641, 647.
The jury then convicted Mr. Stevens on three counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 48. Pet. App. 4a. Mr. Stevens was sentenced to 37 months of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. Ibid.
4. a. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit sua sponte heard the case en banc. The court then ruled that Section 48 is a facially unconstitutional content-based prohibition on speech that violApp. 1a-63a."
02/06/09: Katrina Rescue Fraud: Dogs Hijacked by "Trainers" and Pit Bull Advocates
01/08/09: Animal Cruelty Law Tests Free Speech: Dogfighting Videos
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12/12/08: Edward Faron of Wildside Kennels Has Been Charged by Authorities
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04/05/08: Charged Bloodsport Breeder, T.L. Williams, Still in Business