Federal authorities charge two men with conspiracy to produce “Animal Crush” videos

Two men face charges in federal court for allegedly participating in online groups devoted to animal cruelty videos.

Nicholas Dryden of Cincinnati and Giancarlo Morelli of New Jersey were charged with conspiracy to create and distribute so-called “Animal Crush Videos,” the U.S. Department of Justice announced in a press release Friday.

Dryden is accused of creating videos of animal cruelty. Because a minor was paid to mistreat the monkeys, prosecutors say, he is also charged with producing, distributing and receiving a visual depiction of child sexual abuse.

In March and April 2023, according to court documents, Dryden and Morelli conspired to create and distribute videos depicting sadistic acts of violence against baby, adolescent and adult monkeys. Prosecutors say the conspirators funneled money through Dryden, who then paid a minor in Indonesia to commit the desired acts on camera.

The videos include monkeys whose genitals are burned or cut with scissors, as well as those being penetrated with a wooden skewer or a spoon, the press release states.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The charges relating to the creation and distribution of Animal Crush videos each carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The charges relating to the production and distribution of child sexual abuse images each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the FBI investigated the case. Prosecutors include Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Oakley of the Southern District of Ohio.

A Licking County, Ohio, man pleaded guilty in federal court in Columbus last month to similar charges related to animal cruelty videos, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Ronald Bedra of Etna was accused of conspiring with others to create videos showing monkeys being tortured, including having body parts severed and sexually abused. He and other members of the group also paid people in Indonesia to record the acts on camera, court records said.