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STATE LEGISLATION ON CRUSH VIDEOS TO BE PROPOSED.

Byline: Sylvia L. Oliande Staff Writer

SIMI VALLEY - When the Ventura County District Attorney's Office received a videotape from an East Coast animal rights group nearly two years ago, it got its first look at the underground fetish of crushing.

The tape had been bought through the Internet and was linked to a Burbank post office box rented to a Thousand Oaks man. Investigators were sickened by what they saw.

A movement is gaining momentum across the state and in the nation against this little-known perversion that depicts the crushing of small animals under the weight of scantily clad women.

Ventura County Deputy District Attorney Tom Conners said sentiment against the videos has has grown because of the overwhelming cruelty in they depict.

``If you can imagine an animal, from mice to kittens and puppies, taped and tied to the floor and having a woman slowly crushing it to death,'' Conners said. ``The visual aspects of that, along with the screams, pain and terror is unbelievably gross. It's so horrendous there's not a whole lot to argue against.''

Authorities have not been able to bring charges against the unidentified Thousand Oaks man because at the time they had only animal cruelty laws on their side.

Because authorities had to catch people in the act of making the videos or prove that the tapes were created within the three-year statute of limitations for animal cruelty, their hands were tied when they were first made aware of the practice.

But a new federal law introduced by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, was enacted last fall, making it a crime to create, sell or possess the videos. And Assemblyman Thomas Calderon, D-Montebello, will propose legislation at the state level this month to give authorities ammunition to fight those gaining financially from this little-known fetish.

Investigators said there are approximately 2,000 videos in circulation and the practice has grown into a million-dollar industry that flourishes in Internet chat rooms that link people from all over the globe, including those in Japan, Holland and Italy.

Conners explained that before the law was enacted, investigators had launched an undercover operation to get the evidence they needed. He said with the new federal law, simply possessing such a video is a crime, lessening the need for such undercover work.

``It has brought to light the fact that it is happening and there are a certain amount of people who are pulling out of the business because they don't want to get caught,'' he said, adding that now investigators face a new difficulty, because those who trade in the tapes are going further underground.

Animal rights activists who have been at the forefront of the movement said they were delighted with the new law and were optimistic that their efforts will be successful at the state level.

Organizers said they were appalled when they saw the videos.

``As long as I've been working on issues like that, I was appalled at the sight of 4-week-old kittens being crushed under foot,'' said Beverlee McGrath, state representative of the Doris Day Animal League, which has been working on the effort. ``I couldn't believe someone would do that and call it sexual entertainment.''

McGrath said she and other animal rights activists are grateful to Gallegly for his commitment to the issue.

``Everyone is deeply indebted to him,'' she said. ``He went over and above the call to move it that quickly. And, as for Calderon, when an issue has received a lot of publicity, it's prudent to tap into that publicity to continue the momentum.''

Gallegly said he was pleased to hear that the bill would be introduced locally because it means the state would have greater latitude to make arrests and prosecute.

He said those who overwhelmingly approved the bill in the House and Senate saw the legislation for what it was - not about sex but about cruelty to animals.

``Obviously, others are recognizing that it wasn't a trivial or insignificant piece of legislation and I'm confident that's the reason we're finding that other people locally are doing a similar thing.''

Calderon said he believes the reason the issue has taken on such momentum is that it there is an awareness that that type of material is so easily accessible and the fetish is being fed on the Internet.

``People are e-mailing us short clips of people being struck by cars, being pushed down stairs, animals being tortured,'' he said. ``The timing is good because people are aware of it and it is a problem.''

First Amendment groups, who object to restrictions on what people can possess in their homes, oppose the legislation.

Conners, however, said the movement against crush videos equates them with child pornography, which is not protected - a person cannot make the tape without breaking a law.

The group has been warned that opponents may argue a push for protection of animals when there is no law prohibiting the possession of ``snuff'' videos - pornography involving the killing of a person.

Conners said that while there has been no documentation of actual snuff videos being produced, the idea that there are those who would get gratification from tormenting a living being makes legislation against snuff videos a possibility in the future.

``That's the problem with perversions: You get desensitized and you need something more exciting or more gross,'' Conners said. ``And who would have ever thought there was a market for crushing animals? This would be a pre-emptive strike as far as the humans.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 9, 2000
Words:917
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