The Fury of Social Media Brings Tortoise Abuse Teens to Justice
When animals or little kids are harmed, hell hath no fury like social media. Two teenaged girls from Orange Park, Fla., found this out to their everlasting regret in July. Their crime? Let’s just say they richly deserve the righteous anger slung their way by the good people of the Internet.
Jennifer Greene, 18, and a 15-year-old friend decided it would be amusing to spend some time torturing a small, defenseless gopher tortoise and capturing the “fun” on video. While one of the girls recorded the proceedings on her cell phone, the other reportedly did unthinkable things.
The video shows a teen pouring alcohol on the tortoise and trying to set it on fire. The alcohol also splashes on the surrounding sidewalk, catching fire. The tortoise can be seen desperately attempting to flee the flames. The girls try again, this time successfully, to light the tortoise on fire as he tries to get away.
The girl on camera throws the tortoise to the ground and down the street. She stomps on it, trying to crush it. Its organs squeeze out from under its shell. All the while, the girls laugh and cackle with glee, saying things like:
- “Burn baby, burn baby!”
- “Now you’re scared of us, huh?”
- “Let’s light his head on fire.”
- “Ugh — I just want him to die.”
- “His heart came out with a bunch of grass.”
- “He’s dead. That’s funny.”
The teens posted two videos of all this horrific cruelty on Facebook. Apparently they were proud of it and thought their Facebook friends would get a kick out of it. They were sadly mistaken.
Cruel Video Goes Viral, Sparking National Outrage
Not surprisingly, the girls began getting significant backlash from their Facebook friends and decided to delete the videos from their account. Fortunately, a quick-thinking classmate and Facebook friend, Ashtin Erd, captured one of their videos and re-posted it to his own Facebook account to allow others to see and share what these girls had done.
“I don’t really like what they did there,” Erd told News4Jax. “Personally, I’m an animal lover. I wanted to keep (the video) up there (on Facebook) until I know for a fact they got what they deserved.”
Good for you, Ashtin. Chances are these girls would have gotten away with this crime if you hadn’t cared enough to keep the heat on.
A fellow student, Chyenne Padgett, 15, told News4Jax she cried when she saw what her friends did to the tortoise. She didn’t hesitate to alert the police about the video. “It’s incredibly upsetting,” she said.
For those who want to see and understand for themselves the full extent of what these girls did, at least two angry YouTube users have uploaded the complete video as it originally appeared on Facebook. You can find those videos here and here.
Be advised that what you’ll see there is graphic and distressing. In addition to the atrocities depicted, the language — even in the introductions by the users who uploaded these videos — is decidedly “not safe for work.”
Florida officials heard from people across the country as the heartwrenching video went viral on social media, triggering the investigation that resulted in these arrests.
Teens Arrested for Felony Cruelty to Animals
From all appearances, the girls seemed not to understand the seriousness of their crime. Amber Teska, a neighbor who lives near the younger girl, said she did not seem upset when taken into custody.
“I had walked out to my mailbox and she was just in the car smiling,” Teska told News4Jax. “She smiled all the way from her house, being handcuffed to the car, and she was inside the car smiling, and it was just disgusting. It’s like she doesn’t even care.”
The teens face charges of felony cruelty to animals and a misdemeanor charge of taking, harassing, harming or killing a gopher tortoise — a protected “threatened species” in Florida. Greene can be prosecuted as an adult, but her underage companion will be prosecuted within the juvenile system, said FWC.
The State Attorney’s Office of the Fourth Judicial Circuit is considering the case and has not yet determined what charges are appropriate. However, it’s clear they intend to pursue the matter vigorously.
“We will not tolerate this behavior in the Fourth Judicial Circuit,” State Attorney Angela Corey said in a press release. “We are committed to fully prosecuting those responsible for the torture and death of this vulnerable and threatened species.”
The girls face up to five years in prison on the felony charge and six months in jail and/or a $500 fine for the misdemeanor.
“The statute is the same whether you’re an adult or a juvenile,” Florida attorney Janet Johnson told First Coast News. “There are different kinds of animal cruelty, one is a misdemeanor and one is a felony, this one has to be the aggravated kind, because it is an excruciating video to watch obviously an aggravated killing of an animal.”
Without question, in addition to punishment, these girls desperately need psychological help. If you’d like to encourage the State Attorney’s office to prosecute this case to the fullest extent possible, as well as to find these teenagers the help they so obviously need, please sign this petition. Care2 will see it gets to State Attorney Corey on your behalf.
Photo credit (main image): Thinkstock