FC animal abusers rarely jailed

WINNSBORO – Chances are good you won’t go to jail for abusing animals in Fairfield County.

Time after time, persons charged with animal abuse-related offenses were allowed to plea for reduced punishment and received probation. Even felony charges were typically plea-bargained to misdemeanors. Many times, charges were dropped altogether, according to court documents.

In some instances, offenders were more likely to spend time behind bars for nonviolent offenses, such as trespassing, open container of alcohol or gambling violations, documents show.

Further, the Fairfield County Public Index lists jail sentences for at least two defendants for the offense of “dogs running at large.”

Two others charged in grisly animal abuse cases – one in which a cat was methodically tortured and killed and another in which a dog was dragged – served no time in prison after their trials.

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman Jr. couldn’t be reached for comment.

County Council Chairman Billy Smith said he thinks the problem rests primarily with enforcement.

“I don’t think the problem has been so much the laws in place. I think the laws in place are sufficient to prosecute the cases,” Smith said. “Why those cases are allowed to be pled is something I wish I knew the answer to.”

By the numbers

A review of the County Public Index, a database that lists criminal cases filed in the County, found at least 13 animal-related abuse or neglect cases adjudicated since 2015.

The review included cases handled by the Sheriff’s Office and the Town of Winnsboro Police Department. It didn’t include pending animal abuse cases, nor did it include incidents that didn’t result in criminal charges.

Four animal abuse cases, all of which were deposed in 2016, were nolle prossed, or non-criminal disposition of a criminal case, as defined by S.C. Judicial Department.

Court records list indictments for all four defendants.

Indictments are court documents stating that there is sufficient evidence present for a criminal case to move forward.

But the cases do not move forward. They are settled with little punishment.

In perhaps the most glaring example of leniency granted to an animal abuser, a Ridgeway man facing up to five years in prison for torturing and killing a cat received probation in 2017.

The solicitor allowed the case to be pled and the court sentenced then 18-year-old Christopher Pauley of Ridgeway to three years, suspended to three years of probation. The penalty was inclusive of a second charge of intimidation later plea bargained to assault and battery, second degree, court records show.

Pauley did, however, spend several months behind bars before his trial.

Court records state he was arrested Dec. 27, 2016 on the animal abuse charge and posted $5,000 bond on Feb. 27, 2017.

On March 14, 2017, he was charged with intimidation of court officials, jurors, or witnesses, and jailed again until the June 1 trial date, court records show.

At Pauley’s sentencing hearing, the prosecution said that according to a witness, Pauley said he beat the cat, set it on fire and hung it from a tree in a garbage bag over the span of several days.

That witness did not appear in court.

“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,” assistant solicitor Croom Hunter told the court.

State law defines the felony offense of animal cruelty as when a person, “tortures, torments, needlessly mutilates, cruelly kills, or inflicts excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering upon an animal or by omission or commission causes these acts to be done.”

A person convicted of this offense, “must be punished by imprisonment of not less than one hundred eighty days and not to exceed five years and by a fine of five thousand dollars,” the law states.

Despite what’s written in state law, Pauley was still allowed to plead to the lesser misdemeanor charge of ill treatment of animals, even with prior conviction in his record.

More mercy for abusers

Pauley’s case, though one of the most graphic, isn’t unique in terms of animal cruelty offenders receiving plea agreements

Brian Smith, 41, of Winnsboro, faced 180 days to five years in prison for a felony charge of ill treatment of animals/torture after he shot a dog in March 2016.

Smith claimed he shot the dog because he thought it was the same animal that had attacked his mother’s dog, but no evidence of that was ever presented in court.

In the end, Smith was sentenced to 90 days, suspended to 90 days of probation and fined $1,500 at a hearing in May 2017.

One of the last photos of the Alexander pit bull. The dog, approximately 3- to 4-years old according to Animal Control estimates, was malnourished and emaciated beyond recovery and later euthanized by the County. (Fairfield County Photo)

Katera Latrice Alexander of Winnsboro also eluded prison after she was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor ill treatment of animals charge, also in May 2017.

Alexander, 29, also received a 90-day suspended sentence. Her only other punishment was to perform 25 hours of community service, court records state.

The then 28-year-old Alexander left a dog chained to the porch, starving it to the point that the dog later had to be euthanized.

In another instance, a man charged with dragging a dog dodged prison time.

Billy Ray Huskey, 41, of Great Falls, was charged with the felony charge of ill treatment of animals in general/torture charge, but was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of ill treatment of animals.

According to police records, witnesses said Huskey dragged a nine-month-old dog for about a mile on the highway behind his Dodge Ram pickup truck Dec. 13, 2015. Huskey pleaded guilty in July 2016. He was sentenced to 90 days, suspended to three years of probation, which expires 12 months from now.

These cases and others like them resulted in penalties often far less severe than non-violent offenses.

Court records list a 10-day jail term for a Winnsboro woman pleading guilty in 2017 to a “dogs running at large” violation.

The same “dogs running at large” offense fetched a 15-day sentence or fine for a Winnsboro man found guilty in a July 2017 bench trial, documents state.

In 2015, a Rebecca Boulware, 52, of Chester, was sentenced to 30 days with credit for time served on a charge of gambling/unlawful possession/operation of slot, video, vending machine or gambling device, according to Fairfield County court records.


This story is part 1 of a 3-part series.


Related: No additional time, no fine for cat abuser, RW man charged with torturing cat,  Felony Dog Abuse Case Awaits TrialAgain, no time, no fine for County’s animal abuses,  Woman Charged in Dog Starvation, Charges Being Upgraded in Dog Starvation CaseCharges pending in dog starvationDog Abuser gets 25 hours,  Arrest made in Dog Dragging Case, Hearing Scheduled in Dog Dragging CaseDog Abuse Case DelayedDog Case Returned to Fairfield‘A Horrible Thing’,

 

Comments

  1. Randy Bright says

    To paint an even bleaker picture for Fairfield- study after study indicate animal abusers are more likely to move on to even more horrible crimes. It’s time for our legislative and judiciary officials to take a stand against the horrible inhumanity of animal abuse.

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