Less time in cases with non-white victims
Human death resulting from dog caretaker negligence in the first third of 2016 brought or affirmed sentences of four convicted dog owners ranging from no time served to a potential life sentence.
The four cases were similar, each involving dangerous dogs either running at large or left unattended in a public place, after the owners had been warned.
Thus the severity or lenience of the sentencing, at a glance anyhow, appeared to depend less on the circumstances of the crime than on the court and the identity of the victim.
The two convicted perps with non-white victims drew markedly less time than the two whose victims were Caucasian.
15-to-life conviction affirmed
A three-justice panel from the California Second District Court of Appeal on April 18, 2016 upheld the second-degree murder conviction of Alex Donald Jackson, who was in October 2014 sentenced to serve from 15 years to life in state prison for the May 9, 2013 death of jogger Pamela Devitt, 63, of Palmdale.
Devitt was mauled by four of Jackson’s pit bulls near his former home in Littlerock, California.
“Appellant knew his dogs were jumping his fence and attacking passersby,” wrote the appellate court panel in a 14-page verdict.
“As an owner of animals with dangerous propensities, appellant had a duty to exercise reasonable care in keeping his dogs from jumping the fence, and his failure to do so caused the death of another person.”
“Jackson was also convicted of three drug-related charges — cultivating marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and possession of a controlled substance,” recalled Hoa Quach of the City News Service.
Eight years in Argentina
The stiffest sentence yet issued for a dog attack in Argentina, eight years in prison, was meted out on April 25, 2016 to pit bull breeder Horatio Gonzalez, 49, by the Oral Criminal Court IV of La Plata, a city 40 miles south of Buenos Aires.
Gonzalez, convicted of manslaughter, had in 2014 left one of his pit bulls tied near a path in Puerto Bolívar where local children played, despite repeated warnings from neighbors that the dog was dangerous.
The pit bull killed two-year-old Santiago Veer.
Gonzalez is expected to appeal the sentence as unprecedented, even though it was less than a third of a 25-year maximum.
No time in North Carolina
At the opposite extreme of sentencing, Judge Stan Allen of the Rockingham County Superior Court in North Carolina on January 6, 2016 sentenced farmer Daniel McCollum to serve just 9 months of supervised probation for involuntary manslaughter, to pay $900 in court costs, and repay $1,055 in veterinary and vaccination expenses incurred by the Rockingham County animal shelter while holding 15 of McCollum’s dogs in custody.
And no kennel costs
Allen exempted McCollum from paying $87,185 in reimbursements sought by the shelter for holding the dogs, at $16 per day per dog.
McCollum’s mixed pack of heelers, hounds, and German shepherds in November 2014 attacked Mexican anesthesiologist Jose Cruz Cazares Robles, 62, in a ravine across the road from McCollum’s home.
DNA evidence linked at least four of the dogs to bite wounds inflicted on Robles, both before and after his death from a heart attack apparently suffered while trying to fend the dogs off.
Visiting for baptism
“The late Robles was visiting his brother-in-law Ricardo Ramos to celebrate a child’s baptism just before Thanksgiving 2014,” wrote Taft Wireback of the Greensboro News & Record.
“After a search that spanned parts of two days, Robles’ body was discovered across the road from McCollum’s home — clothing and shoes ripped from a body covered in bites and scratches,” Wireback continued.
“The dogs were allowed to run free often. Evidence showed that before the Robles incident they had threatened a neighbor, postal workers and United Parcel Service drivers — one of them even puncturing the tire of a delivery vehicle with its teeth,” Wireback summarized.
30 months & no time in Ohio
Cuyahoga Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman on April 20, 2016 issued somewhat heavier but still lenient sentences to Leon Morton, 49, and his mother Bobbie Green 71, for the July 2015 pit bull attack death of Annie Williams, 71.
Morton, who received 30 months in prison, had pleaded guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter while Green, who received six months suspended, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor negligent homicide. Green was also barred from ever again keeping a dog.
“Williams visited Morton’s house July 12 to visit her grandchildren and great grandchildren who lived there, some of whom Morton had fathered with her granddaughter,” reported John Harper of Cleveland.com.
“Morton’s pit bull had escaped from the back yard,” Harper wrote. “Wilson struggled to get back to the car and fell. She was unable to get up before the dog bit her throat and crushed her esophagus.
“It wasn’t the first time the dog had escaped through fence, prosecutors said. The judge was shown photographs of holes in the fence that were covered up with boxes and other items.” Harper finished.
Leniency expected in Arkansas
Leniency also appears to be likely on June 7, 2016 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, when John Chester Smith, 63, owner of C.J.’s Garage in Jefferson County, Arkansas, is sentenced for the March 21, 2015 pit bull attack death of customer De’Trick Omar Johnson, 36.
Several of Smith’s pit bulls mauled Johnson after escaping from C.J.’s Garage.
Smith pleaded guilty on April 1, 2016 to Class C felony manslaughter, a charge punishable by three to 10 years in prison plus a fine of $10,000.
Minimum sentence recommended
“The plea negotiation filed in the 11th Judicial District 2nd Division Circuit Court lists a recommended sentence of three years,” in other words the minimum, reported the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Smith, who was not present during the attack, had been warned previously about his dogs and their aggressive behavior, Jefferson County sheriff’s office authorities said.”