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Wednesday, Mar 24, 2004County: Tom Green
» Joshua Benjamin Johnson
» Kevin Ward Wright
Case Updates: 4 update(s) available
Two San Angelo teens accused of animal cruelty were released from jail Thursday on $7,500 bond each.
17 year-olds Joshua Benjamin Johnson and Kevin Ward Wright were arraigned before J.P. Fred Buck Thursday morning following their arrest at Central on Wednesday. Both were charged with cruelty to animals, a state jail felony. They allegedly struck a dog with a skateboard repeatedly at a downtown parking lot. Concerned parents contacted law enforcement after a video of that beating was distributed over the internet.
They also face 2 previous convictions of serious bodily injury.
To politely share your comments with the Assistant District Attorney, contact:
John Best, Assistant District Attorney
Office of the 51st District Attorney
124 W. Beauregard
San Angelo, TX 76903
Editors Note - Dec 21, 2004: Pet-Abuse.Com has noticed unusually high traffic to this particular case, from as far away as Sweden and the Netherlands (so much so that we had to temporarily remove the video). It has become a hot topic on forums all across the Internet and we have received hundreds of emails expressing anger, sadness, disappointment and frustration. While we are thrilled to see that this terrible case has struck such a nerve in communities across the globe, we also hope that the outrage does not end with venting on a message board. If this upsets you as much as your comments reflect, take the time to write a coherent, polite letter to the prosecuting attorney, letting him know how you feel. Make your feelings matter - if you are outraged, tell the people that are in a position to change things. You have the DA's contact information - put your money where your mouth is, and stand up and be heard.
|The second of two teens charged with beating a dog with a skateboard in a downtown San Angelo parking garage is set to plead guilty Feb. 17, ending a case that sparked national outrage when a video of the beating surfaced on the Internet. |
Under the plea bargain struck with prosecutors, Kevin Ward Wright, 18, would be sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, said John Best, assistant district attorney. In return, Best said, the state would drop a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge Wright faced after the beating.
''He'll be a convicted felon,'' said Best, in part answering criticism from groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who launched a media campaign decrying a similar punishment for the first teen, Joshua Benjamin Johnson, also 18.
Johnson was convicted in December of beating the stray dog about the head March 1. An animal control officer testified that the dog was found and euthanized after no one adopted it. A state district judge sentenced Johnson to two years' probation and a $500 fine.
|Source: Go San Angelo - Feb 2, 2005|
Update posted on Feb 6, 2005 - 3:38AM
|A state district judge convicted Jonathan Benjamin Johnson on Monday of felony cruelty to animals and sentenced him to probation, ending a trial where attorneys sparred over whether Johnson was guilty of torturing the dog he beat with a skateboard. |
Johnson, 18, remained expressionless as Judge Ben Woodward declared that Johnson did torture the stray dog in a downtown San Angelo parking garage March 1.,
Rather than order jail time, as prosecutors had requested, Woodward sentenced Johnson to two years of probation, with a one-year suspended sentence and a $500 fine. As part of his probation, Johnson must perform 60 hours of community service and avoid contact with his co-defendant, Kevin Ward Wright, 18.
''You made a mistake,'' Woodward said. ''And now it's time to pay the consequences for that.''
Because state law allows an enhanced charge for torturing an animal but provides no definition of torture, Woodward, prosecutor John Best and defense attorney Kirk Hawkins debated whether the beating - one blow delivered by Johnson - warranted the felony charge.
Cruelty to animals is a Class A misdemeanor, but a finding of torture enhances the charge to a state-jail felony, punishable by as many as two years in prison.
The case attracted national attention when Johnson and Wright sent the video they made of the beating to friends through e-mail and instant messaging, according to court documents. Animal-rights Web sites posted the video and formed letter-writing campaigns to Best and state district judges.
In an interview after the trial, Johnson said he regretted his actions.
''It was like a spur-of-the-moment thing,'' he said. ''There's not a day that goes by when I don't think of it four or five times and wish I could erase it and start over.''
Johnson was beaten up by a group of boys at a local skate park after the video became public, he said, a reiteration of statements he made during a videotaped confession played in court.
The trial turned emotional as Best played a video of the beating. Two people - the mothers who initially called police when they saw the video sent to their children in March - left the courtroom in tears.
The video shows the dog lying in a corner next to a vending machine in the Twohig Street parking garage when Johnson lunges forward, smashing a skateboard with two hands into the side of the dog's head.
The dog, after first jumping and barking, begins to stagger against the machine as one boy yells, ''You whacked it good!'' followed by laughter.
As the dog tries to turn away into the corner, another blow with the skateboard is delivered to its neck. The dog then curls into the corner.
Wright is scheduled to appear at a pre-trial hearing at 9 a.m. today. He also is charged with cruelty to animals with a torture enhancement, as well as felony criminal mischief in an unrelated case.
The felony conviction was important, Best said, because it set a precedent that will make cruelty-torture charges easier to prosecute.
''In all the case law, I didn't find any cases that had facts similar to this,'' he said. ''In that sense, it's good for other prosecutors prosecuting these types of cases.''
Best argued that a dictionary definition of torture as ''mental or physical anguish'' fit Johnson's actions, as did a body of state-court decisions that never ruled out such actions as torture.
Hawkins in turn argued that other cases where judges found torture was committed involved far worse crimes, such as poisoning, cooking and drowning animals.
Johnson, as a first offender, did not deserve jail time, regardless of public opinion, he said.
''He's suffered the wrath of the community,'' Hawkins said. ''This is a good kid who's never been in trouble before.''
According to testimony, San Angelo Animal Services picked up the dog, a red chow-German shepherd mix with a red collar, several blocks away less than a week later. The dog later was euthanized after no one adopted it.
Only a handful of people watched the trial. Bill Lockett, a city animal services board member, said the violence of the beating deserved the harsher charge.
''I'm glad there was a conviction,'' he said, ''and I'm glad it was a felony offense"
|Source: San Angelo Standard Times - Dec 7, 2004|
Update posted on Dec 14, 2004 - 12:00PM
|Kevin Ward Wright's trial has been postponed til Jan 4th.|
|Update posted on Dec 10, 2004 - 7:03AM |
|The first of two teens accused of beating a dog with a skateboard is scheduled to stand trial Monday, charged with cruelty to animals involving torture. |
Joshua Benjamin Johnson, 18, is accused of beating a stray Labrador retriever in the face with his skateboard March 1. The subsequent videotape of the beating, allegedly made by Johnson and Kevin Ward Wright, also 18, was distributed across the Internet and broadcast repeatedly in local media.
Johnson, who pleaded not guilty to the cruelty charge, waived his right to a jury trial in a hearing earlier this year, preferring to be tried before a state district court judge. The trial begins at 9 a.m.
Kevin Ward Wright has since been arrested for felony criminal mischief following a June incident in which he allegedly drove a pickup truck onto a Bentwood Country Club putting green, causing more than $7,000 in damage, according to a police affidavit. He is scheduled to face a pre-trial hearing in the dog case Tuesday at 9 a.m.
San Angelo Animal Services and San Angelo Parks Police searched for the dog after the video became public, but no proof exists that they ever found it, said Leslie Hart, director of animal services.
''To the best of my knowledge, we don't know that the dog we found'' was the dog in the video, Hart said.
The video spread through skateboarding and animal-abuse channels, eliciting several letter-writing campaigns to the case's prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney John Best, urging he seek the maximum penalty for Johnson and Wright.
|Source: San Angelo Standard Times - Dec 5, 2004|
Update posted on Dec 5, 2004 - 10:36AM
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