Gabriel Sinclair Lee received his sentence today from Judge Mosley in Caddo District Court. It's been a long journey. Before sentencing, Braveheart's family was allowed to address the court.
Brave's owner, Bo Spataro, asked Judge Mosley to recall the testimony of Dr. Conduff during the January trial. Dr. Conduff testified that the dog was extremely emaciated but she was surprised at how alert he was. In trial, the defense suggested that Brave was so alert because of Mr. Lee's Gatorade cure. Science tells us differently, Bo explained:
Starvation is torture. It is the worst kind of torture. Soon after the absence of food your body begins to use itself to keep the brain alive. So you stay alert and know what is going on till the end. Your organs shut down and you dwindle to nothing and die. Starvation is when the body cannibalized itself. It is long and painful and merciless, making it the true definition of torture.
He also asked the judge to deny Mr. Lee the privilege from ever owning another animal.
Loraine Guerrero was also prepared to address the court. Loraine runs the Voice for Braveheart Facebook page and has been on this journey from day one. The defense tried to disallow her statement, but the judge
In her statement, Loraine thanked Gabriel Lee for his "uncaring and inhumane actions to Braveheart" because now he is a "worldwide sensation" and known in almost every country around the world. She explained that there are over 85,000 signatures on a petition for his justice and that almost 19,000 people get up every morning and visit the Voice for Braveheart page. She went on:
Herein lies the problem: Do I plead for the harshest sentence or do I show compassion, which you have proven you have none. While I want you to pay the ultimate price for what you did to Braveheart, I don't want your family to suffer. Did that thought ever cross your mind as you watched a starving, sick puppy, chained and dying on the floor of the storage building you didn't pay rent on and were told not to come back to, and yet, because of your love for dogs, you neglected to tell the owner, who is a Vet Tech, that there was a puppy locked in the unit!As she closed, Loraine told Lee she thought about bringing pictures of Brave today, happy, healthy and loved, but did not because "you haven't earned the right to see those."
The defense moved to have Loraine's statement thrown out; the judge overruled.
Lee was sentenced to six months jail time which was suspended; eight months supervised probation, one year unsupervised probation. He must pay $100 fine plus court costs. He must pay $60 monthly probation fees. In addition, he can't own animals for the entire probation period -- if he does, he goes to jail.
So. While the sentence is the best the judge could do given the misdemeanor verdict found by the jury in January, I still felt anger and sadness when I heard the verdict.
Prosecutor Holly McGinniss said it was actually one of the toughest sentences she had seen handed down on a misdemeanor.
But it doesn't feel good enough, does it?
As best I can calculate, Gabriel Lee is going to be out about no more than $2500 on this deal. The taxpayers paid for his attorney.
As civilized citizens we must work to get the animal cruelty laws strengthened. They simply aren't tough enough. There's no real deterrent to people who have no conscience. Dog fighting, for example, is still a huge problem. There must be real penalties for abuse. The statute needs to be rewritten. The difference between aggravated animal cruelty and simple animal cruelty came down to one word - intent. The jury simply could not figure out the difference, and apparently, decided to err in favor of the human rather than the dog.
But. Here we are. Braveheart is still a winner, but there are so many other Bravehearts out there. We fight on. We fight for Lucky, for T-Bone, for every other abused and neglected animal who suffers at the hands of the humans who are supposed to take care of them. We are advocates and we will rally for stronger laws and tougher penalties.
Thank God for Bo and Ronda Spataro for seeing this case through to the end, and for all the other members of the Braveheart family (there are many!) who have fought for justice.
Today, justice did the best she could do.
See Braveheart's journey here. And please follow A Voice For Braveheart page on Facebook.
Added: I corrected a typo in Mr. Lee's sentence - it is 8 months supervised; one year unsupervised.
(Photos courtesy of A Voice for Braveheart).