It was Andrew Craig Sustaita’s own colleagues at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office who arrested him for obscenity in January 2017.
A high-tech crime unit within the office uncovered a video of the then-deputy engaged in a sex act with a small dog on a “pay-to-play” bestiality website. He was immediately fired upon his arrest, according to a Harris County news release.
But when investigators found more than 200 images and videos depicting child pornography on a laptop confiscated from his home, the case against the six-year law enforcement veteran went federal, according to KTRK. He pleaded guilty to producing and possessing child pornography and exploitation of a child Thursday, according to court documents.
Some of the images on Sustaita’s laptop included a young girl showering and his genitals placed on or near the girl’s head while she appeared to be asleep, according to the criminal indictment from the U.S. District Court Southern District of Texas.
Two females in the photos appear to be as young as four years old.
“When the image is produced, the child is literally being abused and people are trading those images,” Joanne Musick, chief of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office sex crimes division, told the Houston Chronicle. “It’s especially disheartening when a police officer [is] accused of possessing or trading these images.”
Sentencing is set for June 7, when Sustaita will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15-to-30 years in federal prison for the exploitation charge and up to 10 more years for producing and possessing child pornography. His possible fine could be as high as $250,000.
Upon his release, Sustaita would have to register as a sex offender, and he could also face up to life on supervision, according to a Department of Justice news release.
According to a news release from the Department of Homeland Security, the investigation into Sustaita was jointly carried out by the sheriff’s office and Homeland Security investigative teams, under Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators.
Early on there was a wrinkle in the case, though. Bestiality in Texas was not illegal until Sept. 1, 2017, when the state’s Senate Bill 1232 went into effect, making Texas the 42nd state in the U.S. to formally outlaw sex acts with animals or fowl.
So the physical act with the small dog was not illegal in January 2017, but what made Sustaita vulnerable to the charge of producing obscene material was his video of the act.
According to a 2017 report by Michigan State University, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming and the District of Columbia are the only states and municipalities that don’t have a current ban on the practice.