The teenaged hunters who assaulted a wounded deer in a viral social media video were charged with felonies today by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Eighteen-year-old Alexander Brock Smith and a 17-year-old juvenile male, both of Brookville, each face a total of four felony counts: two each of aggravated animal cruelty and two each of conspiracy to commit aggravated animal cruelty.
Smith also was charged with misdemeanor corruption of minors.
If convicted, both face multiple years of hunting license revocation. While the juvenile's penalties will be determined by the juvenile court system, Smith faces up to seven years incarceration and $15,000 in fines on each felony count.
Smith was arraigned today before Magisterial District Judge Gregory M. Bazylak and released on $50,000 unsecured bail.
The defendants told the Game Commission that on Nov. 30, 2019, they were hunting together in an enclosed tree stand on Smith’s family's property in Beaver Township, Jefferson County.
The juvenile shot and wounded a buck, then missed with a follow-up shot.
The deer was immobilized and video was taken of the pair holding down and kicking the wounded animal. It was then shared through Snapchat.
One recipient of the video saved it to his phone and contacted the Game Commission. His phone, as well as the defendants’ phones, were seized for forensic analysis.
The video was seen by thousands of people worldwide and met with public outcry, especially from other hunters.
The agency immediately launched an investigation but took over two months to file charges.
"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 wrote in a press release.
Some expressed frustration with the length of time it took for charges to be filed.
"It’s easy to understand why people were outraged by the incident. But the worst-case scenario would have been rushing the investigation with a case that wasn’t as strong as it could have been,” Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners President Tim Layton said.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans 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. “Hunters are taught at an early age to hunt ethically, to be respectful of the game they hunt."