Feds, Webcaster Square Off Over Offshore Cockfight Tapes

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Feds, Webcaster Square Off Over Offshore Cockfight Tapes

Fri Jan 18, 2008 @ 05:28PM PST

Posted by Matthew Heller

Cockfight The operator of a website that broadcasts offshore cockfights is sparring with the Department of Justice over an animal cruelty law.

ToughSportsLive.com offers its subscribers live broadcasts of cockfights from Puerto Rico, where the “sport” is still legal. Advanced Consulting and Marketing of Hollywood, Fla., which owns the site, is challenging a law that bans the sale of depictions of animal cruelty and filed a motion for summary judgment in November. "Assuming the federal government and the several states may ban cockfights, the First Amendment prevents any government in the Union from banning depictions of cockfights," the motion says.

But Eric Womack, a trial lawyer in the DoJ's civil division, says Advanced has not responded to the government's requests for sample footage that would establish its depictions of cockfights are "sufficiently expressive" to warrant First Amendment protection. "In what can only be described as a premature rush to an unsupported judgment, the plaintiff seeks to have this Court decide the constitutionality of a federal statute before any factual record ... has been developed," he says in a response brief.

Advanced has invoked an exception to the animal cruelty law which applies to “any depiction [of animal cruelty] that has serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.” Its attorney, David Markus of Miami, also says that the "very purpose" of a facial challenge to a law is to avoid "costly and protracted discovery."

"Whatever particular videos Plaintiff has or has not broadcast are beside the point," he argues in another brief. "It is enough to know that Plaintiff wants to broadcast cockfights."

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