Two Pennsylvania teens have been charged with four felonies and seven other charges for allegedly torturing a deer in a video that went viral late last year.
According to a release from the Pa. Game Commission, Alexander Smith, 18, and an unidentified 17-year-old face four counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, two for torture and two for causing serious bodily injury or death. They also face misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals and tamper with/fabricate physical evidence and several summary offenses.
Smith faces an additional misdemeanor charge of corruption of minors. He was released on $50,000 unsecured bail. The 17-year-old will be tried in juvenile court.
If convicted of all charges, Smith could face more than 30 years in prison.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said in a release Friday that the filing of charges brings to an end a thorough investigation about an incident that has drawn much attention and public outrage. He said posts about the incident on the agency’s Facebook page have made clear the contempt hunters hold for the actions depicted on the video.
“Hunters care deeply about wildlife,” Burhans said. “It’s through their decades of dedication to the outdoors that we enjoy healthy and sustainable populations of wild birds and mammals, and that those wildlife species that encounter trouble are identified and afforded additional protection.”
The video, which went viral Nov. 30, 2019, was allegedly taken in Brookville, Pennsylvania, and shows the boys kicking the buck in the face, ripping off its antlers and stepping on its throat. The deer, which had been shot, was alive during the encounter and appeared to be too weak to move.
“Hunters are taught at an early age to hunt ethically, to be respectful of the game they hunt, the property upon which they hunt and other hunters,” Burhans said. “The Game Commission’s Hunter-Trapper Education program emphasizes these longstanding principles to new hunters.”
The Pennsylvania Game Commission was quick to condemn the video, and worked with Pennsylvania State Police to investigate the incident.
Even where there was video of an unlawful act, investigators had to determine if it happened in Pennsylvania, where the Game Commission has authority to file charges, as well as collect evidence to prove the teens committed the act and posted the videos.
“It’s easy to understand why people were outraged by the incident,” Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners President Tim Layton said. “But the worst-case scenario would have been rushing the investigation and heading into court with a case that wasn’t as strong as it could have been.”
Shortly after the video’s posting, it was discovered that Smith is the stepson of Brookeville Police Chief Vince Markle, who immediately recognized the teen in the video.
Shelly Stallsmith is a trends reporter for the York Daily Record. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at @ShelStallsmith.
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