A Pennsylvania teen has received two years of probation and a 15-year revocation of his hunting license after he and another juvenile were seen on video abusing a still-alive whitetail buck.
The video went viral when the boys posted it to Snapchat in December as outraged hunters and animals rights activists called for their arrest and punishment. The boys can be heard laughing as they kick the buck in the head and the animal struggles to stay alive.
But one of the teens, Alexander Brock Smith of Brookville, received what some residents believe is a minor sentence, a slap on the wrist, due to his close connection to Brookeville’s police chief, Vince Markle, his stepfather.
Smith pleaded guilty May 6 in Jefferson County court to a second-degree misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and summary counts of disturbance of game or wildlife, unlawful possession of game or wildlife, using unlawful devices or methods while hunting and failure to wear the required amount of fluorescent orange while hunting, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
In addition to probation and the revocation of his hunting license, Smith will have to perform community service at an animal shelter and through presentations to hunter education classes and sportsmen’s clubs. He was fined $1,650.
In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop felony charges of aggravated cruelty to animals that causes serious injury or death. The felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison, while a misdemeanor cruelty conviction can carry a sentence of up to two years in jail, according to Trib Live.
The state’s Game Commission reports that some of the loudest voices denouncing the video came from the hunting community.
“Some of the loudest and most passionate messages have been from hunters across Pennsylvania and beyond who have strongly condemned the content of the video,” the Game Commission wrote. “As Pennsylvania’s state wildlife agency, we have said from the beginning that the actions shown in the video are reprehensible. The actions that the video appears to show do not represent ethical hunting practices or individuals who we would be proud to consider Pennsylvania hunters.”
Smith’s 17-year-old companion, who settled his charges in juvenile court, claims that he shot the deer from about 150 yards but didn’t have enough ammunition to finish the kill, according to Trib Live. The pair says that the deer didn’t die. It eventually got up, ran about 20 yards, fell, then ran off.
It didn’t get away before the teens removed one of its antlers, though one of the boys claims the antler fell off on its own.
In the comments under the Game Commission’s announcement of the plea deal, many commenters echoed the sentiments of these two Pennsylvania residents:
A petition on Change.org calling for criminal charges to be filed against the teens has garnered nearly 800,000 signatures.
The video has been scrubbed from social media sites, but a clip can be viewed here. Viewer discretion is advised.