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Thursday, Jan 27, 2011County: Salt Lake
Alleged: David Stepper
Case Updates: 1 update(s) available
A man accused of stomping on his girlfriend's puppy and killing it may have overreacted, but he didn't torture the animal, a judge decided Tuesday.
"I don't think there's torture here," 3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow said. "I don't think it was appropriate by any stretch of the imagination … this was heinous, but I don't think it meets the statute as torture."
The judge then ordered David Stepper, 41, to stand trial not on the third-degree felony with which he was charged -- torture of a companion animal -- but with aggravated cruelty to an animal, a class A misdemeanor. A second charge of threat of violence, a class B misdemeanor, was then dismissed.
Stepper's "on-again, off-again" girlfriend, Rebecca Johnson took the stand to tell of the Pomeranian puppy she bought Dec. 20 as a Christmas gift to her children. She named the six-week-old animal Cooper and tried diligently to keep it hidden from Stepper, who works as a miner three out of four weeks and returns to Utah to see Johnson and his children that stay with her in his time off.
"He didn't want a dog in the house," she said, explaining what happened when he finally discovered the dog on Jan. 27. "It just turned into an argument. He said he wasn't going to live in a house where there was an animal who would destroy everything."
She said they were at odds following the discussion and spoke little. Later, she went to talk to him in a bedroom and the puppy followed. When she tried to get the animal to leave the room, it ran under the bed. When it didn't answer to Johnson's calls, she said Stepper said he would "do it his way" and left to get a broom.
"I tried to sneak the broom away from him and didn't get it," she recounted. "He stood up and I saw him try and stomp at the puppy, try to scare the puppy and stomp at the puppy."
She said the dog then wiggled, at first prompting her to laugh until she realized something was wrong. She said blood trickled from the animal's mouth, landing on the carpet and it died minutes later in her arms. She later told police she saw Stepper stomp on the dog's head with all of his weight, crushing it.
Stepper's attorney, Barton Warren, countered that his client is a full-grown, 275-pound man and such a step would have literally crushed the two-pound animal and photos showed no such damage. He argued that it was more likely the dog was injured in the scuffle over the broom between Johnson and Stepper.
"The statute says: 'intentionally, knowingly torturing a companion animal,'" Warren said. "Those aren't the elements of this case."
He also argued against the threat of violence charge, which stemmed from Johnson's statement that Stepper threatened to kill her before he stomped on the dog. The judge dismissed this charge, saying there was no showing that the statement prompted fear in Johnson, who continues to live with Stepper.
A class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. A third-degree felony could have led to zero to five years in prison, Warren said.
|The man accused of killing a puppy by stomping on its head has pleaded not guilty.|
41-year-old David Stepper is accused of stepping on a two pound Pomeranian puppy's head causing it to die.
He appeared before a judge on May 17 to face two charges of torture of a companion animal, a third-degree felony and for allegedly threatening to kill his girlfriend named Rebecca Johnson who purchased the dog.
Prosecutors allege Stepper grew angry last January after learning Johnson bought the dog without his knowledge.
During an argument between Stepper and Johnson, the puppy ran to a room to hide under a bed. Stepper followed the dog and used a broom to try and push the dog out.
The dog later died.
A judge reduced the felony charge to a misdemeanor.
During Thursday's arraignment Stepper pleaded not guilty to an aggravated cruelty to an animal charge. He also pleaded not guilty to a threat of violence charge against him.
|Source: abc4.com - Jun 16, 2011|
Update posted on Jun 17, 2011 - 6:18PM
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