Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Barn arsonist brought to justice... Sort of

In May 2010, I blogged about a barn fire in Denver, in which 12 horses were killed.  Do you remember?  A couple of weeks later, a suspect was charged with animal cruelty.  They didn't really give many details, so imagine my surprise when I read today that a man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for animal cruelty in setting the fire.

"This is the most severe case of animal cruelty I have seen in my 20-plus years as a prosecutor," the district attorney, Don Quick, said in a statement.

So 12 horses, a goat, and some chickens died a horrible death, the worst case the DA has seen in years, and they give him only 12 years?!

Colorado has some of the stiffest penalties in the country for animal cruelty, which is why it angers me when people get off this easy.  The guy was charged with 13 counts of animal cruelty — why wasn't he given the maximum penalty (6 years) for each one?  And yes, I think someone ought to be put away for the rest of their life for deliberately setting a fire that would murder more than a dozen animals.  An act like this goes far beyond neglect, beyond even typical abuse.  It would take a complete lack of morals or empathy in order to do something like this — and is that someone we even want in our society?

They still aren't giving many details, despite early reports that the fire may have been some kind of vengeance on the barn owners.  The guy has also been ordered to pay "up to" (whatever that means — sounds to me like another way to let him off the hook) $149,380.  No mention of additional fines, even though Colorado law allows up to $500,000 in fines per count.

I have really mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I'm glad they caught the guy, and I'm glad he will at least spend some time in prison for what he did.  But at the same time, it's a travesty that the judge thinks those lives he destroyed were worth less than a year apiece.  As for the restitution, I don't doubt that most of it is intended to pay for a new barn.  It makes me so mad that those who make and uphold our laws assign so little value to the lives of animals.



At January 15, 2011 at 12:31 AM, Anonymous Melody said...

I agree with you. I never understand why those who do these kinds of things are let off so easily. Here in Georgia, it's a joke. Literally. So many times people should go to prison for things as horrible as the barn fire...and they get a slap on the wrist, a little fine, and a "now don't do that again". Makes me so incredibly angry!!!!

And some of them have moved on to hurting other humans as well as animals. Oh, then sometimes the authorities actually punish them. Argh, don't get me started.

At January 22, 2011 at 12:47 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Melody, I agree with you on all of it. And I think it's not at all unusual for these people to move on to humans. To deliberately hurt an animal requires a lack of empathy and morals, and someone who lacks those things is a danger to society as a whole.


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