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Saturday, Nov 30, 2002County: Kanawha
Defendant/Suspect: Joey Armstrong
A man accused of having sex with a sheep used in a Charleston nativity scene has struck a deal with Kanawha County prosecutors that allowed him to stay out of jail.
Joey Armstrong, 30, will serve two years of probation and be required to get some mental health care for breaking into a funeral home's manger scene and molesting an animal, according to court documents and his lawyer, public defender Stephen Kenney.
The deal, inked last month with little fanfare, will give Armstrong a chance to begin piecing together his life, Kenney said. He said his client was shaken up after his December 2002 arrest on charges of cruelty to animals, trespassing and destruction of property.
"It's not the sort of fame that anyone would seek," Kenney said of his client, who now lives in a Charleston homeless shelter. "You basically become an outcast everywhere you go. He's an outcast at the homeless shelter. He's very ashamed. He's filled with shame."
The deal came despite pressure from animal rights advocates to send Armstrong to jail.
Armstrong could have been sent to jail for more than a year if convicted of all the charges in the case. But as part of his plea agreement, he will be able to avoid jail if he behaves himself over the next two years.
The agreement required Armstrong to plead guilty to destruction of property. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the trespassing charge and agreed to drop the cruelty to animals charge in June 2005, provided Armstrong sticks to a mental health care program for the next two years.
Armstrong has already had a psychiatric evaluation that determined he "is not a risk of any significant repeat behavior like this, and he's not a threat," Kenney said. "But he does have some issues. He's dealing with some mental health professionals."
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