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CONVICTED: Was justice served?
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Monday, Mar 7, 2011County: Yakima
Defendant/Suspect: David Aaron Soto
A convicted felon from Wapato who shot a dog while driving down the road was sentenced Friday to 5 1/2 years in prison.
David Aaron Soto, 31, was sentenced for his conviction on a rare charge of first-degree animal cruelty as well as unlawful possession of a firearm after a bench trial last week in Yakima County Superior Court.
The charges stemmed from an incident on South McKinley Road, a gravel road just outside the city limits of Wapato, on the afternoon of March 7.
Prosecutors said a black Honda Accord was seen driving slowly down the road when resident John Pratt heard two loud gunshots and found his dog and companion of 10 years lying mortally wounded.
A Yakama Nation tribal officer spotted the Accord, which had a distinctive red door, leading to a chase and capture of Soto. Inside the car in plain view was a 12-gauge shotgun.
At trial Soto claimed he shot the dog to put it out of its misery after he accidentally ran over the animal.
But prosecutors questioned that story, noting there was no evidence the dog had been struck by a car and that it was still alive on the arrival of tribal officers.
Prosecutors said jailhouse recordings showed Soto told his girlfriend that he been armed with the shotgun and that it was lucky he had not encountered one of his enemies that day because he was "tripping" on something.
At trial, Judge David Elofson acquitted Soto of a drive-by shooting charge, but convicted him of the animal cruelty and firearms charge.
Soto has a criminal record that includes a prior conviction for residential burglary, and Elofson sentenced him to the top of the range under state sentencing guidelines.
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