Men plead guilty to setting dog “Justice” on fire - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Men plead guilty to setting dog “Justice” on fire

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DALLAS (KRLD) - There will not be a trial over the puppy that was burned alive in Pleasant Grove – and eventually died from its injuries.  Although all four men have pleaded guilty to animal cruelty, animal rights activists are not happy.

Jury selection was set to start Tuesday morning in the animal abuse trial of the men who set the puppy named "Justice" on fire last year. But before it began, remaining defendants, Richard Valentine and Darius Ewing pleaded guilty. Darius Carey pleaded guilty Friday and Adrian Ayers pleaded guilty in June.

Prosecutors wanted Ewing, who they considered the ringleader, to face punishment for use of a deadly weapon.  They claim he used a combustible liquid, lighter fluid, to set the dog on fire.  But Judge Larry Mitchell said prosecutors did not provide enough evidence to prove that charge – dropping the punishment from a possible 10-year prison term to potential probation and time served.  According to court documents, Ewing agreed to a five-year prison sentence. A judge will make the final decision at a sentencing date in the future. Valentine and Carey were sentenced to 15 months.  Ayers was sentenced to two years.

Animal rights activist Jonnie England, who attended the hearing, said she was stunned by the judge's decision. "He ruled as he wanted to rule," she said.  "The punishment range for state jail felony with use of a deadly weapon, which would have been two to ten years and now the maximum is two years."

Justice suffered third-degree burns on 70 percent of his body.  According to the police report, the defendants doused Justice in lighter fluid and set him on fire. The dog began darting around the complex until a witness caught him and smothered the flames with a shirt.

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