180-day sentence in dog abuse case

By Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate December 10, 2013 12:29 pm

A local man was sentenced to 180 days in jail after pleading “no contest” in the maiming of a puppy. On Thursday, a judge accepted a plea deal negotiated by the defendant and the District Attorney’s Office.

Zachary A. Hinton, 22, of Crescent City, also got 500 hours of community service

during his sentencing for a felony count of maliciously and intentionally maiming a puppy.

Hinton was a co-defendant in the 2012 case of a pit bull that was slammed down several times at a couple’s residence in the Totem Villa Apartments on the 1000 block of U.S. Highway 101.

The dog was eventually handed over to the Humane Society, and his front legs had to be amputated.

Named London, he was adopted by Frances Gehring, of Beaverton, Ore., who was in the crowd at the sentencing hearing, sitting next to suspended District Attorney Jon Alexander and others who wanted to speak on behalf of the puppy. The past couple of hearings, including the sentencing, were packed with sup- porters of London, who gained international support through a website dedicated to him to help raise animal cruelty awareness.

A co-defendant, Sarah Anderson, 21, has already been sentenced to three years of probation for a misdemeanor version of the same charge.

Gehring had sent a letter to Judge Chris Doehle to request Alexander and Eileen Bennet, who volunteers for the local Humane Society, be allowed to speak, but Doehle denied the request, citing laws that prevent members of the general public from speaking at sentencing hearings if they aren’t related to the victim.

“I think more years in jail is definitely warranted,” said Gehring.

She also encouraged Doehle to impose a lifelong reimbursement for the puppy’s expenses.

“I’m taking a chance that he is going to stay healthy in his life,” said Gehring, who pointed out several concerns about London’s health arising from his front legs being amputated.

Doehle denied lifelong reimbursement, but scheduled a reimbursement hearing to see past medical expenses relating to the dog’s medical history.

At the start of the hearing, Doehle said she intended to change the terms of the plea deal and instead sentence Hinton to a year in jail. She agreed to the negotiated term after hearing from the DA’s Office as to why it couldn’t go to trial, and defense attorney Darren McElfresh intended on pulling out of the plea deal.

In a presentence investigation report, Hinton denied slamming the puppy to the ground, instead claiming it jumped out of his truck’s window.

“The conduct that you engaged in is completely out of bounds,” said Doehle. “You have not expressed any remorse in the case.”

When Hinton was given a chance to speak, he told Doehle that he was remorseful and hoped that she would reverse her order to be remanded into custody immediately in the hopes that he could spend Christmas with his recently born daughter.

Alexander told the Triplicate the plea offer was weak and he would have taken the case to trial if he was still in office.

Deputy District Attorney Annamarie Padilla pointed to a diminished case after a key witness refused to go to any more hearings after an intended trial last January was continued. The witness was not notified of the continuance until after he traveled from Washington to Crescent City. She also cited credibility issues with the other key witness.