BROOKVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Two central Pennsylvania teenagers have been charged for the videotaped abuse of a wounded deer they shared on social media, authorities announced Friday.
Alexander B. Smith, 18, of Brookville, and a 17-year-old boy each face two felony charges of aggravated animal cruelty, two felony counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated animal cruelty, and several related misdemeanor and summary counts.
Smith was arraigned Friday before a magisterial district judge and released on $50,000 unsecured bail. The 17-year-old will be charged in juvenile court.
The video posted on social media was recorded Nov. 30, the opening day of the rifle deer season. It shows the teens holding down the deer while kicking it in the face, stomping on its legs, and pulling on its antlers after shooting it.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission said it became aware of the incident when someone shared the video to the agency’s Facebook page.
Smith and the 17-year-old admitted to investigators that they were hunting together in an enclosed tree stand on property Smith’s family owns in Jefferson County. The 17-year-old shot and wounded the buck.
The teens then took the video with a cell phone and shared it through Snapchat. Someone who received the video saved it to his phone and contacted the game commission, the agency said in a news release.
Game Commission executive director Bryan Burhans said the charges “bring to an end a thorough investigation about an incident that has drawn much attention and public outrage.”
An online petition calling on authorities to prosecute the teens garnered over 720,000 signatures.
Burhans said posts about the incident on the agency’s Facebook page “made clear the contempt hunters hold for the actions depicted on the video.”
Some people also expressed frustration with the length of time it took for charges to be filed. The game commission said it was important to complete a thorough investigation.
“Even in this case, where there was video of an unlawful act, investigators had to determine 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,” the agency said in the news release.
“It’s easy to understand why people were outraged by the incident,” Board of Game Commissioners president Tim Layton said in a statement. “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.”
“Obviously, this case has generated a large amount of public outcry,” Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett said. “People have assumed that officers have been dragging their feet when, actually, the opposite is true. They have put a lot of hard work in this case in order to present the case for prosecution.”
The felony charges in adult court carry penalties of up to seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.