In Memory of LEO
SAN JOSE, Calif. 2/2000 (AP)
A judge said he didn't believe the apology of a man convicted of throwing a small dog to its death in traffic and sentenced him to three-year prison term, the maximum.
``I'm really sorry for what happened,'' Andrew Burnett testified before the sentencing. ``I'd like to say I'm sorry to the
McBurnett family. If there's anything I could ever say or do to bring back Leo, I would.''
~The courtroom erupted in applause as Judge Kevin J. Murphy imposed the sentence after saying the 28-year-old man was
a danger to the community.~
Burnett sought leniency after his June 20 conviction animal cruelty. He threw a bichon frise named Leo to his death following a fender bender with Leo's owner, Sara McBurnett. ``What the defendant said is he was sorry. It was an accident,'' Murphy said. ``It wasn't an accident.''
The judge said Burnett lied about the events that occurred Feb. 11, 2000, when McBurnett's car tapped the bumper of Burnett's car near the San Jose airport. Witnesses said Burnett snatched the dog from McBurnett's lap and tossed him into traffic. Burnett's attorney maintained his client merely acted reflexively after Leo bit him.
``To describe his story as unbelievable is being polite,'' Murphy said. Burnett's attorney, Marc Garcia, said he expects his client to appeal.
``I can't imagine that somebody who for 28 years had led a crime-free life, has been productive, has been responsible, could receive three years in prison on a first-time offense,'' Garcia said. ``It's just something that is unprecedented.''
Burnett is scheduled to go on trial next week on theft charges for allegedly stealing equipment from his van when he worked as a telephone repairman.
``Words can never convey the depth of love I had for my dog Leo,'' Sara McBurnett testified at the sentencing hearing.
``His clear intent was to terrorize me in the fastest and clearest way he could under the circumstances.''
Judy Nemzoff, a spokeswoman for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in San Francisco, said the case sends a strong message that society will not tolerate the wanton mistreatment of animals. ``We anticipate that society will demand that more and more offenders will be prosecuted to the extent of the law," Nemzhoff said.
Of The U.S. Commends California Judge For Stiff Sentencing In 'Leo' Dog Death Case.
WASHINGTON, July 13, 2001 U.S. Newswire
~The HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES~ (HSUS) today commended California Judge Kevin J. Murphy for sentencing Andrew Burnett to the maximum penalty of three years in prison for the death of "Leo," the bichon frise whom Burnett grabbed from a car and threw into oncoming traffic after a minor car accident last year. Burnett, 27, formerly of Norfolk, Va., was convicted in San Jose last month on felony animal cruelty charges for the February 2000 incident that led to a nationwide search for the killer and that placed a spotlight on the seriousness of animal cruelty.
"Today, a stiff sentence was handed down to a person who committed a senseless and horrific act," states Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president of The Humane Society of the United States. "This fitting and appropriate sentence should give pause to anyone who may seek to cause deliberate harm to an animal for malicious purposes."
In addition, Burnett will undergo psychological counseling, as under California law, individuals convicted of cruelty to animals are required to receive psychological assessment and treatment. In 1998, California was the first state to enact such a law. Today, three other states -- Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico -- have similar laws.
"The judge recognized that animal cruelty is not a matter of child's play, but an indication of an emotional and empathic disconnect," adds Pacelle. "Animals are not toys, but sensitive, feeling creatures. Once the courts treat animal cruelty as the senseless crime it is, then we will see a drop in the frequency of these acts of barbarism."
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have adopted felony-level animal anti-cruelty laws, the majority having passed in the last few years. The HSUS, through its First Strike® Campaign, recently released a report on animal cruelty in America that examined more than 1600 animal cruelty cases nationwide. Among the findings, the research shows that a large number of cases involved some form of family violence, whether domestic violence, child abuse or elder abuse. An extremely high number of cruelty cases were committed by male teens under the age of 18.
For more information on
The HSUS First Strike® Campaign and the connection between cruelty towards animals and violence towards people,
visit the HSUS Web site at
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization with more than seven
million members and constituents.
Contact: Wayne Pacelle, 202-285-1741 or Karen Allanach, 301-548-7778
both of the Humane Society of the United States.
I'm so sorry, Leo
Bless your little soul...
My eternal sympathy to Leo's mom, Sara McBurnett.