A Jonesborough, Tenn. man was sentenced to judicial diversion on Monday in the egregious animal cruelty case of a four-pound Yorkshire terrier. Dustin Ricky Harrell, 22 of 1178 Old Stage Road pleaded guilty last May to torturing the family dog named Honey.
In a September hearing after Harrell's guilty plea, he stated he had been sexually abused as a child and had been under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Harrell told the judge his girlfriend had broken up with him, and he used the dog to gain sympathy by saying the dog had been hit by a car. Since the crime, Harrell stated he had been to a rehabilitation facility for the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse.
In a very controversial and emotional case, on Nov. 3, 2011 Harrell threw the tiny dog down a flight of stairs numerous times, held her under water, put her in the clothes dryer for four minutes and alternately comforted her as he abused her. When the tiny dog cried out in pain after her leg was broken, Harrell taped her mouth shut so she could not cry out. Honey was tortured by Harrell for four hours. She died in his arms.
Bridge Home No Kill Animal Rescue's President Regina Isenberg stated on Facebook Harrell was sentenced to 18 months diversion because Tennessee's policies allow criminals to only serve 30 percent of their time. According to Isenberg, the judge stated he could keep an eye on Harrell, and if Harrell violated any terms of his probation, he could be sentenced to prison for the maximum amount of time. She stated if Harrell did
"...ANYTHING wrong he (Judge Cupp) will give him the max. jail time. We are glad its over and we would like to thank all of you that supported this cause. RIP Honey."
Diversion forms of sentencing are often run by police departments or other official offices and provide first time offenders an opportunity to reduce or drop criminal charges and criminal records. Usually based on such requirements as community service, mental health examinations and therapy, restitution and avoiding similar situations, rehabilitation may be more effective than spending time in prison.
Still many humane supporters and animal lovers were devastated that such an egregious crime didn't warrant any prison time for Harrell.
According to the Johnson City Press.com, Judge Cupp stated:
“I cannot comprehend what that puppy went thorough. I don’t even want to think about it,”
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