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|Prosecutor(s):|| James Reams|
|Defense(s): ||Michael Natola|
|Judge(s):|| Gillian Abramson| CONVICTED: Was justice served?
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Tuesday, Jan 15, 2002County: Rockingham
Charges: Felony CTA
Case Images: 3 files available
Defendant/Suspect: Christopher Devito
Case Updates: 4 update(s) available
Christopher Devito age 33, of 37 Williamine Dr. plead guilty to 23 counts of animal cruelty in Rockingham County Superior Court on 6/19/02. He was charged with 37 counts of animal cruelty and 37 counts of exhibition of fighting animals. As part of the plea agreement 13 counts will not be prosecuted including charges of possession of steroids without a prescription and 1 count of criminal threatening.
Devito was sentenced to 2 to 5 years in prison, followed by 2 years probation, and ordered to pay $62,000 restitution. Also as a condition of his parole, he will not be allowed to own animals or attend animal fights. With his plea bargain, the other 22 charges brought 2 to 4 years in prison, with suspended jail time. Had the case gone to trial Devito could have faced a maximum of 3 1/2 to 7 years on each count. Devito ran the Smiling Buddha Kennels on his 12-acre property.
Authorities raided Devito's home in January 2002 after a worker who had been fired from his job feeding the dogs tipped off Newton's animal control officer that some of the animals were injured and scared. 43 dogs were confiscating from a soundproof Quonset hut in the woods on the property. Most of the dogs had scars on their faces, chest and torso, pieces of their ears ripped off and missing toes, 1 had 2 broken legs that healed on its own without medical attention and one had no tongue. A female pit bull was also found in a cage with 10 newborn pups. The dogs all had to be euthanized because they were not adoptable. The NH SPCA evaluated the dogs, veterinarians, the Humane Society of the United States, Peta and the MSPCA.
Also found were treadmills, a collapsible fighting pit, blood-stained carpet and steroids along with $292,000 in cash - in bundles of $5,000, which was later seized by federal authorities in a civil forfeiture linked to drug trafficking and money laundering. In February 2002 the federal government seized Devito's property and several vehicles under a federal drug forfeiture law for trafficking marijuana. A Woburn, MA man convicted of marijuana trafficking told the police Devito was his regular supplier, alleging he was having 500 pounds of marijuana a month shipped to New England in refrigerated trucks from the West Coats. Devito's lawyer, Michael Natola of Boston, MA has said the seizure amounts to more than $700,000 worth of property. Among the property seized were 2 Volvos, A Dodge Ram pickup truck, a tractor, trailer 2 off road recreational vehicles, a Ford Excursion and a condominium in Clearwater, Florida. In May 2002 the house - a 3,300 square foot cape and surrounding land in Newton, was appraised at $372,000. In August 2002, the US Attorney's Office would not comment on whether federal drug charged might be brought.
Because of the numbers of dogs confiscated, they were sent to humane society shelters in Dover, Concord and Monadnock region and animal rescue leagues in Bedford and Salem, NH. When the dogs were euthanized, grief counseling was provided to those affected by the case. The fighting tendency was the result of genetics, not so much training, so even the pups were euthanized. While in the care of the animal shelters, at 15 1/2 weeks old 2 of the pups began attacking each other, even though they had never been trained for fighting.
Devito's lawyer was given a 30-day window to have his own experts inspect the animals before they would be euthanized. The defense did not take advantage of that opportunity.
Prior to this case the police had investigated barking-dog complaints at Devito's residence and in 1999 he was convicted of owning nuisance dogs. A Plaistow District Court judge ordered Devito to remove the dogs from the property until he created a plan to address the barking problem. The 10 dogs were de-barked, then returned after Devito built the hut. Debarking is the removal of vocal cords.
Devito left his job as a computer systems engineer at Harvard University in November 2001 due to a back injury. Devito's wife Lena a Spanish teacher at Tiberlane Regional High School resigned on March 21st after February 12th protest outside the high school. Lena Devito was a 1st year teacher at the high school and had held other support staff positions before become a Spanish teacher. Lena Devito was under no obligation to resign, she had a right to continue teaching at the school because she had not been charged.
More than 3500 people signed a petition urging a stiff sentence be imposed in the Devito case according to a spokesman for the Abolishers of Animal Fighting.
Dog-fighting bets can range anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000. A fighting dog that wins 5 consecutive fights is known as a Grand Champion and their offspring are worth $1,500 to $2,000 per pup. Dog fighting is against the law in all 50 states and a felony in 47.
|Judge Keith Kautz, of the 8th Judicial District in Torrington, set free a man who stole, tortured, paralyzed, cut off the legs and burned the body of a 35-pound Basset Hound named "Dexter".|
Travis Wilson, 22, was convicted on July 20, 2001 of misdemeanor animal abuse and sentenced a month later to four-to-seven years in prison. But early this month, his sentence was suspended.
Evidently, in Judge Kautz's court, seven years adds up to about 193 days.
The Torrington Telegram reported on Sep. 9, 2002, that Judge Kautz suspended Wilson's sentence and placed him on supervised probation for four years. Wilson will live in a "half-way" house where he will engage in mandatory counseling and be able to acquire full-time employment.
|Source: Dogs In The News - September 2002|
Update posted on Oct 15, 2006 - 8:54AM
|The Newton Police Department was awarded $28,298.02 from the U.S. Treasury last week for its role in the arrest of Christopher DeVito, a former Newton resident incarcerated for operating a pit-bull-fighting ring and laundering money. DeVito was sentenced more than a year ago, but as his assets are liquidated, the department is receiving 15 percent of the total amount. |
The department has already received $64,271.62 in seized cash and the sale of a vehicle through the government's federal asset forfeiture program, which allows the federal government to seize any assets accumulated through the sale of drugs.
The most recent check came from the sale of DeVito's house at 37 Williamine Drive and more may be coming, according to Police Chief Larry Streeter, as it is believed DeVito owned a house in Florida as well.
"We're very fortunate to still be receiving asset forfeitures," said Streeter as he presented his proposal for expending the money to the Board of Selectmen.
Of the remaining $71,794.83 the department has received resulting from the arrest, Streeter asked the selectmen to approve $27,500 for several capital items that include patrol rifles, a copier machine, a new police-station alarm, sensitivity training and cruiser equipment.
The selectmen accepted the money and approved the expenses with little hesitation.
"Most of these things would probably have to be funded from tax money at some point," said Selectmen Chairman Stephen Cushing. "They are all basic necessities."
The new balance of $44,294.83 is expected to remain in the asset-forfeiture account as a nest egg and will eventually be used for capital-outlay expenditures not requiring a taxpayer initiative, according to Streeter's proposal.
DeVito was arrested on Jan. 15, 2002, when police raided his home and seized 43 pit bulls - many of which had scars, including one missing a tongue - that had been bred to take part in staged fights.
Police found on the property dog treadmills, a blood-stained fighting pit, steroids and other equipment consistent with training dogs to fight. Several of the dogs bore scars from fights; one dog was missing a portion of its tongue and another had two broken legs.
The dogs were euthanized in May of 2002 after it was determined they had been trained to fight and could not be rehabilitated and placed in homes.
DeVito pleaded guilty in June 2002 to 23 counts of animal cruelty for training pit bulls to fight each other. DeVito struck a plea bargain with prosecutors that dropped 15 of the counts of animal abuse.
Animal activists were outraged with the 1-3 year sentence and protested the ruling, saying DeVito deserved far more jail time.
DeVito is serving two-to-five years in state prison for operating the pit-bull ring and an additional three years in federal prison for money laundering, which will begin once the first prison term is complete.
|Update posted on May 22, 2004 - 8:20PM |
|DeVito was sentenced to an additional 3 years in federal prison for laundering $76,250 that was collected by selling drugs, per court records. He was also sentenced to 3 years' supervised release, which means he will not be allowed to own any firearms or weapons and will have to submit to a number of drug tests after he is released from prison.|
The 3 year sentence will begin after DeVito's current stint in prison is complete. Judge Steven J. McAuliffe recommended that the sentence be served in a Texas federal prison, where his wife and family currently live.
For the purpose of sentencing, the court estimated that DeVito sold between 20-40 kilograms of marijuana per month to 2 Massachusetts men. The federal government seized more than $290,000 cash from DeVito's home. The prosecution was not able to gather enough evidence to charge DeVito with drug trafficking.
DeVito's prior criminal record revealed numerous counts of operating a motor vehicle without a license and a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
|Update posted on Aug 1, 2003 - 11:38AM |
|On Aug. 28, Judge Abramson addressed the defendant Christopher DeVito, 37, in Hillsboro North County Court, telling him: "You are possibly the most publicly reviled defendant I have ever seen in my days on the bench ... you inflicted such pain and torture on helpless animals for fun and profit." |
On 23 counts of Exhibition of Fighting Animals, Judge Abramson sentenced DeVito to 2-to-5 years in state prison on the first charge and 2-to-4 years in prison on the remaining 22 charges. Due to the severity of the offenses, the judge warranted a state prison sentence, rather than a county jail sentence.
|Update posted on Jan 8, 2003 - 4:13PM |
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