Boynton man get six months’ jail in pit bull cruelty case

"Lady," mother of the puppies, shortly after her rescue in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)
“Lady,” mother of the puppies, shortly after her rescue in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)

A 36-year-old Boynton Beach man accepted a plea deal Monday that will and him to jail for six months on charges from a case where investigators say he kept a starved pit bull and her four puppies in a filthy crate without food.

Deon Blue accepted a plea on a single felony charge of cruelty to animals and four misdemeanor charges of  unlawful abandonment and confinement of animals.

His attorney, Harris Printz, told Circuit Judge Laura Johnson that Blue accepted the allegations in hia January 2016 arrest report as part of the deal he arranged with Assistant State Attorney Judith Arco.

Lady's four puppies, as they were discovered in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)
Lady’s four puppies, as they were discovered in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)

Among the claims, Boynton Beach police say, an investigation began in May 2015 when an anonymous called complained that there was an emaciated dog and four puppies in the carport of a home in the 2600 block of Northeast 4th Court.

By the time an officer arrived, the pit pull had made it out of her crate, leaving the puppies behind, and wandered to a neighbor’s house. The carport area, the officer said, had a putrid stench of urine and feces, and there was no food or water in the area where the whining puppies were discovered.

Although the home had been foreclosed months earlier, investigators say they quickly traced the dogs back to Blue, who immediately claimed ownership of the pit bull he named Lady and her four puppies.

Animal Control officials took custody of the dogs, and a veterinarian later said Lady was anemic and suffering from severe starvation.

Aside from the jail sentence, Blue was also ordered to may nearly $1,000 in fees and costs.

VERDICT: Jorge Garcia GUILTY in Loxahatchee animal slaughter case

imageA Palm Beach County jury has just convicted a Loxahatchee ranch owner charged with inhumanely killing two goats in a case captured on video last year.

The four women and two men announced they’d made a decision after 5 hours of deliberations, which ran almost as long as testimony in the trial that began and ended Tuesday against 48-year-old Jorge Luis Garcia.

Garcia was charged with two felony charges of animal cruelty along with two related misdemeanor charges. Jurors convicted him of lesser included misdemeanors on the felony charges and convicted him as charged of the misdemeanor charges of nonhuman killing of animals.

Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer ordered Garcia immediately taken to the Palm Beach County jail, where he will remain until his sentencing April 26.

Garcia could have faced more than 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of felony cruelty to animals and killing animals in a nonhumane manner. Now he faces up to two years.

Just before the verdict, jurors received lunch and could be heard from outside of the jury room laughing.

“I know why they’re laughing,” Garcia said outside the courtroom. “It’s because this entire thing is a joke.”

But Assistant State Attorneys Judith Arco and Jo Wilensky on Tuesday told jurors that what Garcia and others did on his Rancho Garcia farm was a serious violation of the law.

Goats and other farm animals, they said, are supposed to be slaughtered in a manner that causes immediate and painless death. In a video they showed to jurors Tuesday, two goats slaughtered at Garcia’s farm appeared to die slow deaths as blood spilled from their slit throats as they hung upside down.

The videos were recorded by a member of the Animal Recovery Mission, an investigative animal welfare group created several years ago by Richard Couto. The investigator, who asked reporters not to use her name, testified Tuesday about one goat’s final agonizing moments.

“It was crying like the sound of a little baby screaming,” she said.

After the verdict, defense attorney Andrew Stine said he respected the jury’s decision but would be appealing the convictions.

His main argument will be that jurors should not have been allowed to see video that the ARM investigator secretly recorded on Garcia’s property. Though Stine in a pretrial hearing said it was private property, Feuer sided with prosecutors who said Garcia’s farm was operating as a business open to the public and fit a legal exception to a Florida law requiring two-party consent to record.

Stine says the issue has the making of an unprecedented appellate fight.

“A case like this hasn’t been decided in Florida,” Stine said.

According to Acro, Garcia has several prior felony cases, including an animal cruelty charge in a case sparked by conditions found on his farm when he was arrested and accused of running an illegal chop shop.

In the prior animal case, a judge withheld an adjudication of guilt and sentenced him to three years’ probation.

Couto said despite the fact that Garcia wasn’t convicted of any felonies in this case, the verdict was a victory for his group and animal lovers in Palm Beach County.

Although the case involved a pair of goats, the ARM investigator in the case said other video showed Garcia “sadistically” stomping on the necks of ducks while laughing. And though prosecutors found no evidence of horses being slaughtered in the property, Couto believes that happened there as well.

“There was a lot more going on there than what you saw,” Couto said.”

 

Trial begins in Loxahatchee animal slaughter case

imageThe former owner of a Loxahatchee farm at the center of what prosecutors are calling a brutal illegal animal slaughter operation is now on trial.

Testimony began Tuesday morning in the animal cruelty trial of Jorge Garcia, arrested with several others after a nonprofit animal rights group gave investigators video evidence of farm workers shooting at and repeatedly stabbing a goat.

Another man arrested with Garcia, Rafael Ramirez, is also charged with illegally selling horse meat, although prosecutors said they found no evidence of horses being slaughtered at the farm.

Several other men took pleas in the case. Defense attorney Andrew Stine told jurors in the case that Garcia wasn’t the one who slaughtered the animal in question, and also said the manner in which it was killed was legal.

Judge in Loxahatchee horse meat case denies motion to throw out video

tmpNSWfqS-mdly-photoA former Loxatachee farm owner charged with illegally slaughtering goats and a cow while also illegally possessing horse meat could go to trial as early as March 28 after a judge denied his request to throw out video evidence in the case.

Jorge Luis Garcia, 48, and Rafael Ramirez, 50, had unsuccessfully tried through their attorneys in a hearing Wednesday to get Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer to throw out recordings that an undercover animal rights group shot of Garcia’s Loxahatchee farm last year.

The videos show a goat and other animals being slaughtered. The group also purchased horse meat from members of the operation and believe they slaughtered horses on the property as well, but no one was charged with the slaughter of a horse and prosecutors have said they have no evidence Garcia, Ramirez or the three other men arrested  on animal cruelty charges with them were slaughtering horses.

Garcia’s attorney, Andrew Stine, told Feuer that the recordings ran afoul of Florida law, which requires all parties to consent to being recorded in conversations and meetings where there is an expectation of privacy.

Assistant State Attorney Judith Arco, on the other hand, argued that there was no expectation of privacy in the case. Garcia and others advertised the farm as a business open to the public, Arco said, and crowds of 25 or more people gathered to watch the animal slaughters captured on video.

The three other men arrested in connection with the case took pleas in November.

Edgar Bica, 49, was sentenced to five months in the Palm Beach County jail and given credit for the 25 days he had already spent behind bars. Feuer also ordered him to spend a year on house arrest and another two years on probation.

His 83-year-old father, Edegar Bica, also pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty and killing animals by non-humane methods. Adjudication was withheld and he was placed on probation for 18 months. Rodobaldo Diaz, 47, of West Palm Beach, who also worked at G.A. Paso Fino Farm, pleaded guilty to two counts of animal cruelty, adjudication was withheld and he was placed on probation for three years.