Thought I'd pass this on... hurrah when the system works! =D>=D>
2 teens get 10 years in tortured puppy case
Brothers receive little sympathy from judge
By D.L. BENNETT
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/10/07
Two brothers who admitted torturing and killing a small puppy by baking it to death inside a gas oven will serve 10 years in prison.
Justin and Joshua Moulder, who essentially threw themselves on the mercy of the court last month with guilty pleas to nine felony counts, found little sympathy from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore at Friday's three-hour sentencing.
Jody Horsley (left), the defendants' father, listens and sheds some tears while the verdicts are read. He said of the 10-year terms, 'It wasn't justice, that's for sure.'
Defendant Justin Moulder, with attorney Timothy Owens, pleads for a 'second chance' for him and his brother. Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore accepted prosecutors' suggestion for 10 years in prison.
She described the acts the boys pleaded guilty to Ã¢â‚¬â€ taking the puppy and smearing paint on it, trying to set it on fire, hog tying its feet with duct tape and binding its snout before stuffing it into a searing hot gas oven Ã¢â‚¬â€ as "malicious, unbridled cruelty."
"The way we treat animals, the way we treat the least of these is a reflection of society," Moore said.
"We will not tolerate this conduct as human beings."
Moore sentenced the brothers, ages 19 and 17, to the maximum on several counts, merging the times in jail for a final sentence of 10 years in prison, plus 10 years of probation. The felony animal cruelty charge carried a maximum of 5 years in prison. However, the time in jail increased because of charges for burglary, criminal damage to property and child cruelty.
The sentence matched the recommendation of prosecutors. Defense lawyers asked for six months in prison plus four and a half years on probation. The brothers could have been given as many as 90 years in jail.
The sentence drew a mixed reaction from a courtroom primarily packed with animal lovers hoping for serious prison time. Some wiped tears. Several waited for prosecutors Laura Janssen and Ron Dixon to leave the courtroom so they could applaud and hug them.
"I wish it was more time ... I'd hate to see them out in another 10 years" said Roswell resident Ginnie Blount. Her 9-year-old daughter Abigail, touched by the dog's suffering, gathered more than 200 signatures from folks who supported stern punishment.
Dr. Melinda Merck, an animal cruelty expert who testified during the trial in December which ended in a hung jury, was ecstatic.
"We did good," she said. "I feel like all the work we did was validated. The judge and the jury got it."
Meanwhile, family members and defense lawyers left the courtroom stunned.
Jody Horsley, the father of both young men, wiped tears after the verdict. So did defense lawyer Timothy Owens, who never expected such a sentence when he agreed to let his client plead guilty.
"That was an armed robbery, a rape sentence," Owens said. "Maybe if they had shot or stabbed someone, they would have gotten a better sentence."
Horsley seemed at a loss to understand the scope of how long both will be jailed.
"It wasn't justice, that's for sure," Horsley said.
Prosecutors spent two hours Friday showing the lengthy juvenile records of the Moulders, saying that the puppy's grisly death was an escalation of a dangerous pattern established long ago.
Joshua Moulder, the younger brother, had been in an out of psychiatric care and state youth detention centers for years, records showed. He had been accused of breaking into homes, arson, threatening to beat and kill his own mother and trashing a foster home.
Justin Moulder, while in foster care, had been charged with aggravated sexual battery of a 3-year-old boy, prosecutors said. He was charged as an adult but prosecuted as a minor. He also was convicted of shoplifting as an adult.
Joshua Moulder said nothing at Friday's sentencing. Justin Moulder read a brief statement, apologizing for their actions.
"We are here to ask for forgiveness and a second chance at life," the elder brother said. "If I am given another chance, I will make up for it."
All the charges stemmed from an incident last Aug. 21 inside the community center at Englewood Manor apartments in northwest Atlanta.
At trial in December, prosecutors said the brothers broke into the newly remodeled center and trashed it. During the rampage, prosecutors said, they bound a stray puppy found by a sister and tossed it into the burning oven.
Eleven jurors were ready to convict the Moulders. But one refused, leaving the jury hung.
The pleas came Jan. 26 as defense lawyers and prosecutors prepped for a final pre-trial motion before the retrial, which was set to begin Jan. 29. The blind guilty pleas entered to nine felony counts allowed the judge to decide how many years each youth will serve.
The district attorney's office has received more than 5,000 letters and e-mails from people upset about the crime. More than 25,000 signed an Internet petition in support of prosecution of the case as a felony.