Friday, March 20, 2015

Justice Delivered for Braveheart: The Sentencing

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but after 18 months, Braveheart got justice today.

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
overruled and Loraine was allowed to address Mr. Lee.

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.

I will never understand how failing to get adequate care for a starving dog is simple animal cruelty.

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).


Caroline Newell said...

Thank your for telling Brave's story so well.

Anonymous said...

The punishment hardly seems to fit the crime. 20 months probation, $100 fine, $60/mo probation fees and a ban on pet ownership only for the length of his probation? How about the cost for Brave's vet care? Lifetime ban on pet ownership? And the fine should be much stiffer!

Caroline Newell said...

I agree the punishment does not fit the crime, let us change the choices of punishment juries have by demanding tougher laws.

probably the only disappointment was with the jury. The line between simple and aggrevated was "intent". To me the answer was easy, if you do what he did and he was not drunk at the time, he knew what he was doing...being awake and unimpaired (besides being evil) is intent every day of the week and twice on Sunday, but the public defender was better than average (believe me I have seen below average on the jury I served on) and she was able to blurr the lines just enough that the jury leaned toward benefit of the doubt for the human versus compassion for Brave (taking solace that Braveheart survived and is thriving). I have served on a criminal jury, and no matter what you think (arm chair quarterbacking) it is very difficult to sit in judgment of others. Given a "way to resolve" wanting to believe in good versus evil, juries will generally take the lesser of two options. In my case we had a caveat option that fell somewhere in between. I have seen it, it is an interesting group dynamic that takes over. The outcome was one of the strongest sentences in our parish history, think on that a minute.

mary said...

thank you for this update; i had been wondering how the sentencing went. i am angry and sad that the sentence wasn't harsher but as you said the laws regarding animal abuse and cruelty need to change, as well as the public's understanding and level of compassion. i'm glad braveheart is loved now by so many.

Spitting Rage said...

The punishment should be equal to the crime. This man should be starved. If not starved all the way to death, then at least starved close to it so that he can FEEL what his poor dog felt. I really do not think a punishment like that would be inhumane when the one being sentenced is inhumane. This sentence that he got is far far less than what he should have received.