No additional time, no fine for cat abuser

Photo:Fairfield County Detention Center

No additional time, no fine for cat abuser

Charged with a felony for torturing a cat over several days’ time and then killing it, Christopher Pauley, 18, of Ridgeway, faced 180 days to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine upon conviction. He was also charged with witness intimidation in connection with the torture charge. The intimidation charge, also a felony, carried a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine upon conviction.

But Pauley was not convicted. In fact, he never went to trial.

Instead, Sixth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Croom Hunter allowed Pauley to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges under the Youthful Offender Act when he appeared before Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Brian Gibbons on June 1. The first of those reduced charges, Ill treatment of animals, A (SC Code 47-1-40), also carries a reduced penalty – a maximum of 90 days in prison or a fine of $100 to $1,000. The other reduced charge – assault and battery, second degree (SC Code 16-9-340) instead of witness intimidation – carries up to three years in prison upon conviction and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Gibbons said he couldn’t believe what he was hearing when he presided over Pauley’s bond hearing earlier this spring. He gave Pauley a suspended three-year sentence with three years’ probation to cover both charges. Because Pauley had already served a combined 142 days on both charges before being released on bail, he was neither jailed nor fined.

During the sentencing phase of the plea, Gibbons said he wanted Pauley to finish his GED, cooperate with substance abuse counseling and undergo drug and alcohol testing and mental health testing as necessary. Gibbons also restricted Pauley from owning an animal during his probation.

The case unfolded on Dec. 23, 2016 when a witness contacted the Fairfield County Sheriff’s office in reference to the mistreatment of a cat, Hunter said. The witness said Pauley had told her that he likes to torture and kill animals and that he recently ‘worked’ on a black cat, Hunter said. The witness stated that Pauley told her that over the course of several days, he had beat the cat, set it on fire and hung it from a tree, Hunter said, adding that the witness said she accompanied Pauley to the back yard of his residence where he cut down a garbage bag from a tree and that the bag had the cat’s body in it.

An officer responded, searched Pauley’s backyard and found items the witness had described as Pauley’s ‘tools,’ verifying the witness’s statement, according to the responding officer’s incident report.

“To be accurate, the officer found a black trash bag with maggots and fur inside. She also found a lighter and an ax with fur on the blade,” Hunter told the Court. “The dead cat was sent for a necropsy which was inclusive as to whether the cat was dead before all this happened to it. It’s been Mr. Pauley’s position that the cat was already dead.”

Pauley was arrested on Dec. 24, 2016.  Bond was set at $5,000 and Pauley remained in jail until March 8, 2017, when he appeared for a preliminary hearing on the ill treatment charge.

“It was then that Mr. Pauley learned the name of the primary witness,” Hunter told the Court. “He rode his bicycle up to the Dollar General in Ridgeway where the witness was shopping.”

The witness stated that an altercation ensued and that Pauley approached her angrily, grabbing her arms at one point. Pauley was arrested two days later on the witness intimidation charge and jailed at the Fairfield County Detention Center under a $20,000 bond that was later reduced to $10,000. He remained jailed until his June 1 Court appearance.

“He was a 17-year-old kid who did something stupid,” Public Defender William Frick told the Court in Pauley’s defense. “He (Pauley) is not the person he has portrayed himself to be with these acts.”

However, the responding officer reported that Pauley’s parents, who were cooperative in the investigation, said Pauley, “has been having an issue with taking out aggression on animals since he was a young child.”

The report also states that the witness said Pauley confided in her that he had been taking animals from the area near his residence into the woods behind his residence, torturing and killing them.

“We maintain the position and have witnesses that the cat was deceased before Mr. Pauley had anything to do with it,” Frick told the Court. He did not, however, produce those witnesses.

Gibbons allowed, a representative of Hoof and Paw Benevolent Society to address the Court on behalf of the victims which, she said, included both the animals and the citizens in the community. She called for more arrests, tougher charges and tougher sentencing for animal abuse.

“Light charges prompt light sentencing, offering the opportunity to repeat these crimes,” the representative told the Court. She asked Gibbons to sentence Pauley to the fullest extent of the law to help end animal abuse, cruelty and torture.

“I agree,” Gibbons responded to the comments.

“I am truly worried about you,” Gibbons said, addressing Pauley. “I hope I’m not looking at the next Jeffrey Dahmer. I’ve read your evaluation. I’ve listened to this case, and I truly hope my gut feeling is wrong, I hope that for your sake.”