A Pulaski County man whose videotaped assault on a dog outraged animal lovers should spend 120 days in jail, a jury ruled last night.
The jury, which deliberated about 90 minutes after a daylong trial, also set the maximum $500 fine for Ronald Shawn Turner, who is in his early 30s.
Turner's attorney, Jim Cox, asked District Judge Kathryn Gregory Wood to let Turner stay out of jail on bond until after Christmas while considering whether to appeal. Wood ordered Turner to begin serving the four-month sentence right away, however.
The case -- unusual because of the videotape of the attack -- caused strong emotions and a great deal of media coverage. It also is being cited as inspiration for a proposal to increase the potential sentence for torturing a dog or cat.
It is now a misdemeanor for the first offense. The maximum penalty Turner faced on a charge of second-degree cruelty to animals was a year in jail and a $500 fine; a bill filed for the upcoming legislative session would make torturing a dog or cat a felony punishable by one to five years in prison.
Turner was charged last June after his next-door neighbor videotaped him choking and punching his family dog, a Labrador retriever named Romeo; rolling a doghouse onto him; slamming him against a tree; and lifting him overhead by his feet and slamming him to the ground.
The dog, which was tied up, was less than a year old at the time.
The neighbor, Jeff Knabusch, said he began videotaping the attack through a window of his home after his wife, Judy, ran in from the back yard and told him to look. He videotaped the incident because he was fed up with Turner's behavior, Knabusch said.
"I can't even describe the noise" the dog made when Turner choked it, Judy Knabusch testified.
The 60-second videotape was the key evidence against Turner. It was disturbing, moving one animal lover to tears in court.
Dr. Bruce Jasper, a veterinarian who treated the dog after the attack, said Romeo was having difficulty breathing and had pain in his ribs, and probably had a lung injury. He has since recovered, Jasper said.
Romeo was taken from Turner after the attack.
Turner testified in his defense yesterday, apologizing and asking for forgiveness.
He testified that Romeo had bitten him twice earlier and tried to bite him the day of the attack. The dog was barking "uncontrollably" that day; after trying unsuccessfully to discipline the dog with a rolled-up newspaper, Turner said, he snapped.
"I lost my head. I lost all train of thought," Turner said, becoming emotional. "What I did was inexcusable, and I am ashamed of it."
Turner said the dog belonged to his wife, so the incident had strained their marriage. He's also endured widespread publicity and ridicule and lost two jobs because of the incident, Turner said.
Cox urged jurors not to judge Turner harshly for an incident that lasted only about a minute and did not seriously injure the dog. Some things look worse on tape than they really are, Cox said.
He asked jurors to sentence Turner to the maximum fine of $500, but said jail time was not warranted.
"He's been punished enough," Cox said.
But the prosecutor, county Attorney Bill Thompson, said Turner deserved the maximum sentence, calling the attack horrible.
"He's accepted responsibility today," Thompson said, "because today's the day of reckoning."
Man gets 120 days in jail for abuse of dog