Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19818
Classification: Burning - Fire or Fireworks, Hanging
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Attorneys/Judges
Prosecutor(s): Kristin St. Mary
Defense(s): Andrew C. LoTempio
Judge(s): Kenneth F. Case


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Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012

County: Erie

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 3 files available

Defendants/Suspects:
» Diondre L. Brown
» Adell Zeigler

Case Updates: 5 update(s) available

Buffalo Police say they have two teenagers in custody in connection with the case involving Phoenix, a puppy that was set on fire in the city late last month.

Charges are being finalized, but it's likely the teens will face felony animal cruelty charges. Their names have not yet been released.

Because both suspects are in their late teens, police say they will be charged as adults.

Their arraignments could come as early as Wednesday (Nov 21, 2012).

Buffalo Police would not comment on a possible motive and are expected to release more information once charges are official.

A police spokesperson said a weekend tip from the public helped officers get to the suspects, who were picked up for questioning late Tuesday afternoon.

Phoenix is currently recovering at the Buffalo Small Animal Hospital. Officials at the Buffalo Animal Shelter say he will not be available for adoption until he is completely healed.


Case Updates

A Buffalo man involved in setting a Jack Russell terrier on fire last fall received a six-month jail sentence Friday. But given the time Diondre Brown already served during his prosecution, he was expected to be released from custody soon after his court appearance.

Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case also sentenced Brown, 18, to five years' probation and forbade him from owning or harboring any animals for five years.

Brown spoke only a few words in court but apologized for what happened Oct. 29 in a yard off Herman Street.

The judge called the case "extremely disturbing and appalling" but found Brown to be remorseful.

"I hope that this has served as a wake-up call for you," Case told Brown.

Authorities arrested Brown and Adell Ziegler, 19, -- who is Brown's uncle -- last fall on felony animal cruelty charges for dousing the terrier with lighter fluid and setting it on fire.

The dog, since named Phoenix, suffered burns on 50 percent of its body but has been recovering.

Before his sentencing, Andrew C. LoTempio, Brown's defense lawyer, told the judge that Brown had been taking care of the dog and that it was Ziegler who set it on fire -- accounts supported by neighbors.

During the incident, Brown was crying and telling Ziegler to stop, and then he ran away when he heard the police were called, LoTempio said.

Assistant District Attorney Kristin St. Mary acknowledged Brown's cooperation in the case.

She said he had a "limited role" in the incident.

Brown had pleaded guilty to a felony animal cruelty charge.

LoTempio asked the judge for compassion.

"This young man has a lot of baggage in his background," he said.

Brown has suffered from psychological problems and post-traumatic stress since he witnessed his mother executed in her Koons Avenue home in 2005, LoTempio said.

Brown testified at the trial of the two men convicted of murdering his mother, Tonisha Brown, 26, as well as his uncle Robert "Little Man" Brown on the night of April 23, 2005.

"People seemed to have missed sight of the fact he's a person, and there may be an explanation why he did this," LoTempio said outside the courtroom.

"From the get-go, he's been very tearful and remorseful when the dog is brought up," LoTempio said.

Brown is expected to be released to his grandmother, LoTempio said.

Ziegler, meanwhile, is scheduled to be sentenced June 14.

Last month, Ziegler pleaded guilty to felony aggravated cruelty to animals for his role in the puppy burning.

But Ziegler denied lighting the puppy on fire. Ziegler accused Brown of lighting the puppy on fire.

"My co-defendant lit the dog on fire, and I was present," Ziegler said at his April 29 plea hearing.
Source: Buffalo News - May 17, 2013
Update posted on Jun 7, 2013 - 7:07PM 
A 19-year-old Buffalo man accused of dousing a Jack Russell terrier puppy with lighter fluid and setting him on fire in October pleaded guilty Monday to felony aggravated cruelty to animals.

But Adell Ziegler denied lighting the puppy, since named Phoenix, on fire.

"My co-defendant lit the dog on fire, and I was present," Ziegler told State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia.

Ziegler admitted to acting in concert with Diondre L. Brown, 17, the partner in the puppy-burning incident, so Ziegler is criminally liable for whatever Brown did.

Brown, who has claimed he acted as a lookout while Ziegler lit the puppy on fire, has already pleaded guilty to felony animal cruelty.

Ziegler pleaded guilty to the highest charge for which he could have been convicted had he gone to trial, said Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

Ziegler faces a maximum two-year prison sentence and $5,000 fine when sentenced June 14. Restitution for the care and treatment of the puppy also may be part of his sentence, the judge said, adding that Ziegler was not offered a sentencing commitment.

Ziegler's defense lawyer, E. Earl Key, advised against the plea. "From a legal standpoint, it doesn't make sense," he said.

Key said he has told his client to expect the maximum sentence "with no benefit whatsoever."

Before the plea, prosecutors Kristen A. St. Mary and Matthew A. Albert had prepared for a June 3 bench trial in which they planned to prosecute Ziegler for setting the puppy on fire.

Phoenix continues to recover from first-, second- and third-degree burns to more than half of his body.

Since the incident, Ziegler has admitted his actions to several family members and friends and boasted this case has made him famous, Sedita said. Ziegler was a parole violator at the time of his arrest in the animal-cruelty case, and he is expected to remain in custody on the parole charge through October.

Sedita credited the work of Dr. Rebecca Wagner and the staff at Buffalo Small Animal Hospital for taking care of the horrifically burned puppy.

"Because of the efforts of veterinary professionals like Dr. Wagner, the life of a helpless puppy was saved," Sedita said in a news release. "Because of the efforts of law enforcement professionals like Ms. St. Mary, a demented and remorseless animal abuser was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Assemblyman Sean Ryan has sponsored legislation that would toughen penalties against those who are convicted of aggravated animal cruelty.

In the Phoenix case, "the defendant, who pleaded guilty to a horrific act of animal cruelty, will only face a maximum of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine," Ryan said. "If enacted, Phoenix's Law would double penalties and, in addition, those convicted of aggravated animal cruelty would have to undergo psychiatric evaluation and treatment at their own expense."

Many experts see a link between cruelty to animals and a propensity for future violence toward people, Ryan said.
Source: Buffalo News - April 29, 2013
Update posted on Jun 7, 2013 - 7:05PM 
Accused dog burner and parole absconder Adell Ziegler on Wednesday waived his right to a jury trial and will face a June 3 bench trial on a felony animal-cruelty count.

A pretrial conference was scheduled for May 16 by State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia.

Ziegler's appearance in court Wednesday was scheduled as a possible plea. But Ziegler decided against pleading guilty after his lawyers' discussions with the judge about the length of a prison sentence, among other issues, and whether sentences for the alleged cruelty count and parole violation would be served at the same time or one after the other if he is found guilty.

"The defendant at this time is not going to enter a plea," Buscaglia said in court.

Ziegler is accused of dousing a Jack Russell terrier puppy, since named "Phoenix," with lighter fluid and setting it on fire in October.

Buscaglia met privately with prosecutors Kristen A. St. Mary and Matthew A. Albert of the Erie County District Attorney's Office and defense attorneys E. Earl Key and Ann Nichols.

If convicted, Ziegler, 19, faces a maximum two-year prison sentence on the animal-cruelty count and also faces time on a parole violation.

Diondre L. Brown, 17, the alleged partner in the puppy-burning, has admitted to acting as a lookout and already pleaded guilty to a felony animal-cruelty charge. His sentencing was postponed Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the puppy, now about 10 months old, has healed nicely at the Buffalo Small Animal Hospital, an official at the hospital said earlier this month.
Source: Buffalo News - April 17, 2013
Update posted on Jun 7, 2013 - 7:04PM 
Accused dog burner and parole absconder Adell Ziegler was heading out of a house near West Ferry and Main streets when he ran into his parole officer.

"I grabbed him," Parole Officer Terry Anderson recounted Monday during a court hearing. "I told Mr. Ziegler, 'You're in trouble.' "

"He said, 'I want to speak to my parole officer,'‚ÄČ" Anderson testified. "I am your parole officer," Anderson said he replied.

Ziegler is accused of dousing a Jack Russell terrier puppy with lighter fluid and setting it on fire in October. He brought up the incident without prompting as he sat handcuffed in the back seat of the officer's car on Nov. 9, Anderson said.

"I know why I'm in trouble," said Ziegler, 19, according to Anderson. "It's about that puppy, right?"

"Go ahead and tell me about it," Anderson said he replied.

Monday's hearing before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia was held to consider which of Ziegler's statements to law enforcement agents will be admissible at Ziegler's upcoming felony animal-cruelty trial. Prosecutors Kristen A. St. Mary and Matthew A. Albert of the Erie County District Attorney's Office want to use Ziegler's comments to the parole officer.

The prosecutors, however, said they would not use at trial Ziegler's comments to a Ferry-Fillmore District detective. The handwritten document containing Ziegler's statement was difficult for the judge to decipher.

And they will not rely on Ziegler's audiotaped comments to the detective.

Meanwhile, defense attorney E. Earl Key, who is Ziegler's assigned counsel, wants Ziegler's comments to Anderson excluded, asserting that Anderson was acting in his law enforcement capacity and never read Ziegler his Miranda rights.

Buscaglia reserved his ruling .

Testimony from civilian witnesses -- not considered at Monday's hearing -- is expected to reveal more about what happened to the puppy, since named Phoenix and recovering from its injuries.

Ziegler remains in custody on a parole violation.

Anderson said he had been looking for Ziegler, who had not appeared for any of his mandated office visits "for quite a while."

Ziegler spent a year as an absconder. His mother tipped the parole officer about her son's possible presence at an Oxford Place house, Anderson said. She also said he might have been responsible for setting the puppy on fire.

Parole officers went to the house but did not find Ziegler. After questioning someone nearby, they learned he might be at another house on the street.

When they got to that house, they found Ziegler coming out the door, Anderson said. "He was trying to escape," he said.

Once caught, Ziegler offered Anderson his version of what happened to Phoenix. "He offered it freely," Anderson said.

A drug dealer for whom he was selling marijuana was not paying him enough, so he smoked the marijuana, Ziegler said, according to Anderson.

Ziegler said the drug dealer showed up with his dog. He said that he threw lighter fluid on the dog but that "his partner" lit the match that set the puppy's ear on fire, according to Anderson.

Diondre L. Brown, 17, the partner, has admitted to acting as a lookout and pleaded guilty to a felony animal-cruelty charge.

In Brown's case, prosecutors have recommended youthful-offender status, because his involvement in the crime was relatively minimal, and he has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in Ziegler's case.

Buscaglia previously explored a possible plea with Ziegler's lawyer and prosecutors, but the judge has said he would not commit to any sentence less than two years, which would begin after Ziegler finishes serving his time for the parole violation. So Ziegler has refused to plead guilty.

If convicted, the maximum sentence is two years.
Source: Buffalo News - Feb 4, 2013
Update posted on Jun 7, 2013 - 7:03PM 
Two Buffalo teenagers accused of setting fire to a puppy last month, were arraigned in Buffalo City Court Wednesday morning.

The two teenagers, Diondre Brown, 17, and Adell Zeigler, 19, both of Buffalo, are charged as adults.

Each faces one count of felony aggravated cruelty to animals.

Police say the pair admitted to hanging the dog three feet off the ground, dousing it with lighter fluid, and setting it on fire.

The puppy, whose name is Phoenix, is currently at the Buffalo Animal Shelter recovering.

At a news conference Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda thanked the community for calling in tips which led officers to the pair.

Derenda called the crime "despicable." He would not comment on a possible motive. The teens apparently knew the dog's owner, and he has been located. Derenda wouldn't comment any further on the owner.

In court, prosecutors called Brown an "extremely violent member of the community." He is being held on $20,000 bond.

Derenda said both teens have criminal histories. Zeigler was out on parole following a robbery conviction. He was remanded to the Erie County Holding Center.

Brown's grandmother, Robin Brown, told reporters that her grandson denied harming the animal. She said he loves dogs. "My grandson brings stray animals home. He is still mad at me because I had to give his dog away in 2011 because we were moving in a place that didn't allow dogs. He still tells me, 'grandma, I wish you didn't give my dog away', why you give our dog away."

Brown witnessed a quadruple homicide in April 2005 on Koons Avenue in Buffalo. One of the victims was his mother, Tonisha Brown. "He needs help," his grandmother said about his mental health. She claims he has post-traumatic stress and other issues from witnessing the homicides as a young child.

Robin Brown said that Adell is the uncle of Diondre.

"My grandson didn't do it. His uncle did. The only thing I know is that where Adell is there is trouble. My grandson met him at a home for troubled youth back in 2006 and every time Adell has come around, something has come up missing. The first time it was a pair of jeans, then a PlayStation and now he is trying to take away his freedom," Brown said.
Source: WGRZ - Nov 15, 2012
Update posted on Nov 20, 2012 - 1:42PM 

References

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