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June 24, 2009

A local sentencing story for the dogs

During various sports radio discussions, I heard various folks assert that the different prison terms given to Michael Vick and Donte Stallworth showed that society cared more about criminals who kill dogs rather than those who killed humans.  Though this claim is a bit overstated given the different mens rea culpability for Vick and Stallworth and other factors, I was interested to see today another sentencing story about dog killer.  Here are some details from this local piece, which is headlined "Firefighter killed dogs before going on vacation":

Columbus firefighter David P. Santuomo will spend 90 days in jail and pay $4,500 in restitution for shooting his two dogs in the basement of his home and wrapping their bodies in a plastic sheet.

Investigators say Santuomo, 43, of 2945 Rushbury Dr., has admitted that he was going on a cruise with his girlfriend and didn't want to pay to board the dogs Sloopy and Skeeter even though two neighbors offered to watch the animals in his absence. At the time, he lived on Essington Drive near Dublin.

Franklin County Municipal Judge Harland H. Hale accepted guilty pleas to two counts of animal cruelty and one count of possessing a criminal tool a homemade silencer Santuomo used on the end of a rifle....

Assistant County Prosecutor Heather Robinson said the facts of the case are brutal:  On Dec. 3, Santuomo laid down a plastic sheet in his basement and tied the dogs to a pipe, partially suspending their bodies.  He shot them multiple times, then dumped their carcasses in a trash bin behind Fire Station 27 at 7560 Smoky Row Rd., where he was assigned.  "He later bragged about killing his pets to fellow firefighters, and he showed no remorse, even joking about it," Robinson said. "Fellow firefighters were disgusted by what he did, and the Capital Area Humane Society was called to investigate."

Hale sentenced Santuomo to 90 days in jail and ordered him to pay a $150 fine.  He must have no pets or firearms in his home for five years and serve 200 hours of community service; undergo random home inspections; and pay $4,500 in restitution for the costs of the investigation to the county and the Capital Area Humane Society, from which he had adopted the dogs. 

He also was ordered to write a letter of apology to a firefighters magazine and to readers of The Dispatch.  Hale said Santuomo will be permitted to serve his jail time in 10-day stints over a two-year period.

June 24, 2009 at 02:55 PM | Permalink

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And the Chicago cop got probation for beating up a female bartender.

Posted by: . | Jun 24, 2009 3:19:12 PM

Firemen and police seem to have a lot of extra immunity when it comes to all types of criminal activity. Many times, their "punishment" for what usually sends civilians to jail or prison, is simply losing their job (I wonder if this guy stays a firefighter?) I'll probably get a lot of self-righteous back-talk about how they "risk their lives" etc. It isn't like they don't know that going in, so why does he get a "pass," unlike Mike Vick?

Posted by: Steve Tracy | Jun 24, 2009 4:26:12 PM

I have a real problem with mens rea arguements in a case like this. They are bogus. When it comes to issues like fraud, that's one thing; but when it comes to physical affects its a different story. The fundamental truth is that we do care about dogs more than people. It makes us all squirmy inside but it's true.

Someone died. Mens rea can't take that back or make it go away. What about his mens rea when he got in the car, what about the mens rea when he walked into the bar. Drawing a line on the chain of causation is totally arbitrary.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 24, 2009 6:07:41 PM

Unbeliveable- This guy is worst than Michael Vick.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 24, 2009 6:36:15 PM

Welcome to the hypocrisy laden, monetarily driven, technology controlled world that George Orwell forecast 60 years ago. It's no longer at all about right and wrong, good and evil, even crime and punishment - it's about profiteering, power, political pull, and perhaps most impacting, political correctness. The "justice" system, like everything and everyone else, has fallen victim to the winds of political whim.

Posted by: Steve Tracy | Jun 25, 2009 12:42:19 AM

Daniel writes, "What about his mens rea when he got in the car, what about the mens rea when he walked into the bar." However despite the fantasies of neoprohibitionists, drinking and driving in this country is NOT illegal, even if it is risky and inadvisable. Accidents happen, and MORE auto accidents happen without alcohol than with them. That doesn't make the drivers criminal. Since most people don't have the capacity to measure their BAC before getting into the car, I think the mens rea aspect must be considered.

As to the case at hand, I remember as a kid cat whose job it was to chase mice in our barn gave birth, and my father's partner in the horses he owned put the kittens into a burlap sack and tossed them into the stock pond. Was he a criminal for it? I don't think so, but that seems to be the direction we're heading. The dog is your property. He should be able to shoot it if he wants to, IMO. After all, if he took it to the ASPCA, they'd kill it in three days anyway, all nice and legal.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 25, 2009 8:25:07 AM

Steve Tracy, No self-righteous back-talk defending our sometimes less-than-heroic first responders from me.

In fact it's disturbing to consider just how far the police mission has moved along the continuum from protect and serve to hostile, force-protection policies and tactics that often put citizens' interests in far-distant second place.

The work has always been dangerous. Only recently have we deified cops and fire fighters to the point of countenancing (nay, rewarding) incessant whining about job dangers and winking at misdeeds.

The guy who shot his dogs is a pig. Still the punishment seems more calculated to apease hysterical dog lovers than to fit punishment to crime.

What's puzzling is why the feds failed to cash in on the publicity bonanza the case represented. A firefighter shot his dogs to skimp on kennel fees?! Priceless. Where was Eliot Ness?

Posted by: John K | Jun 25, 2009 2:16:44 PM

When his time comes and he goes to meet his maker, St. Peter will have a stand-in up there at the pearly gates. He often does. In this case it will inevitably be a small mexican dog. Who will say something in Spanish to this supplicant. There is a huge water slide up there by the pearly gates. The supplicant will be cursing those dogs he killed all the way to hell. So, do not put him in jail for now. Let him earn a living, feed his family and go about his beastly life.

Posted by: mpb | Jun 25, 2009 4:00:40 PM

Notably, the crime in this case was not killing the dogs. Presumably, it is legal to kill your own dogs, even if they are healthy, just as it is legal to kill your healthy chicken or pig or cow. All three crimes of conviction concern the manner in which the dogs were killed, which is certainly weird. But, if the real crime in the view of the public is killing health dogs, perhaps that should replace the current offense on the books.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jun 25, 2009 8:10:58 PM

ohwilleke, I'm not sure that's correct. The article says the D "accepted guilty pleas to two counts of animal cruelty and one count of possessing a criminal tool a homemade silencer Santuomo used on the end of a rifle." Surely the animal cruelty offense is for the shooting?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 26, 2009 12:46:46 PM

I just ran across another case of an animal cruelty prosecution for someone killing their own dog. I had no idea before now that could be a crime.

Did PETA win and nobody told me?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 26, 2009 1:16:32 PM

As a defense attorney, I hope I never get to the point where I will excuse even such behavior as this.

Posted by: Ben | Jun 26, 2009 2:23:28 PM

The animal cruelty count if for shooting the dogs repeatly in a cruel manner while they were strung up, not simply for killing a healthy dog, which can be done in a painless (and hence legal) manner.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jun 26, 2009 9:52:07 PM

It's "cruel" to shoot them repeatedly but not to shoot them once? I don't know ... If he "strung them up" in an intentionally painful manner, then okay, but if I were going to put down an animal with a firearm I'd probably tie it up first, too, and the number of shots used to kill something hardly matters. Dead is dead.

I find the behavior (and particularly the motive) repulsive, which is the same reaction I had when I watched my father's business partner throw a burlap sack full of kittens into the pond as a child. But then, maybe y'all think that fellow was a criminal, too?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 27, 2009 9:41:16 AM

Grits, yes, I do. It's obviously not the crime of the century, but it is, in my mind, a criminal act - and I don't know the code in the state in which it happened, but I would hope there would be a provision to cover it. If not, there should be. And I'm hardly a PETA sympathist.

Posted by: Ben | Jun 27, 2009 10:27:58 AM

That's amazing to me, Ben. Perhaps it's because I was raised in a more rural environment, but where I come from your animals are your property and killing them is your right, or used to be. Next it'll be a crime to flush a goldfish you don't want anymore down the toilet.

As long as it's not done in an overtly cruel or torturous way, I personally don't see much difference between shooting a dog, drowning kittens, or the mass killings that go on every day at every SPCA in the country. Dead is dead.

I think some of the PETA ideology may have crept into your worldview a bit more than you imagine. This seems like a pretty significant shift in how the law views the relationship between people and the animals they own compared to previous generations.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 27, 2009 12:59:52 PM

Grits, that the PETA worldview has permeated mine would be news to many who know my politics, but to the extent that I would not view animals as merely chattel but also sentient beings that we should respect on some level (and that killing them is not the owner's "right," at least not absolutely), I guess that may be true. There's a first time for everthing, I suppose.

I submit that drowning kittens, or any other animal (including human beings), is overtly cruel and torturous. I have a hard time fathoming how that could be seen as anything but as the suffering imposed seems obvious. I'm not from a rural environment and I grew up with (and still have) family pets so that surely affects my judgment. I would argee that shooting a dog, or any other animal (including human beings), is not implicitly cruel or torturous should it be done in a manner that the death is immediate or as close to immediate as possible, but that's to be judged on a case by case basis.

However, my understanding of how the "mass killings" performed at SPCAs or Humane Societies are not performed in either or any similar such manner, but rather that they are euthanized, well, more humanely and with (hopefully) considerably less suffering than, for example, drowning them would.

Lastly, I do not pretend to know precisely what your view is on the death penalty, but your "Dead is dead." comment is curious to me. I am aware that you are from Texas where the death penalty is used quite frequently. Is it your position that should the death penalty be imposed, as it is in Texas regardless of whether you agree with its imposition, that the manner of death is irrelevant? That "Dead is dead." and that Texas may either shoot or tie up the individual to be executed in a burlap sack and toss him into the river to drown? I am not trying to be a smartass, and I know that your attitude towards animals is different than that regarding humans, but I'm trying to clarify why "Dead is dead." would mean different things in different contexts as this conclusion does not necessarily flow naturally.

Posted by: Ben | Jun 27, 2009 3:30:03 PM

Thank Dog I don’t live in your “more rural environment” where pets are just property and when you get tired of them you have the right to kill them by any means. So if you get tired of your kids you are o.k. with shooting or drowning them?

MOP this piece of trash (can’t say he’s a human being) enjoyed shooting his dogs. He had the dogs strung up so they weren’t a moving target; standing at close range had to shoot at least 11 times to kill both of them? He didn’t shoot them just to have them die – he shot “at” them to watch them suffer.

The same goes for your father’s partner when he took kittens and drowned them. He didn’t just want to get rid of his problem; He liked hearing them cry before they could cry no more. What sick individuals!

Posted by: hunterr1950 | Jun 29, 2009 12:07:51 AM

How big were the dogs? This piece of Trash (can’t even call him a human being) was familiar with the gun he used in order to make a silencer out of a pop liter.

He had the dogs tie and hanging from a pipe so they were not moving objects. He was at close range and could see where to hit them. So why did it take 11 bullets to kill both dogs?

Because he wasn’t just getting rid of the dogs for vacation – he actually enjoy watching them suffer in dying!

Posted by: hunterr1950 | Jun 29, 2009 7:59:38 AM

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