FLORIDA -- A Delray Beach man will go to prison for 18 months for baiting and fighting animals after his defense attorney failed to win a retrial on grounds the judge is an animal rights activist.
"I'm denying the motion on those grounds, even if it's true, even if I like animals, even if I like children, even if I like old ladies," Palm Beach County Circuit Judge James Carlisle told defense attorney Wilbur Chaney on Thursday.
Chaney, defense attorney for Roy Bennett, had sought a new trial after learning that Carlisle was a pet lover and had taken in strays.
During a nonjury trial before Carlisle last month, Bennett, 27, and his friend Alex Sinkfield, 38, were convicted of baiting and fighting a pit bull terrier and a raccoon at Bennett's Delray Beach home.
They didn't "bait and fight" a pit bull and a raccoon. What they did was trap a raccoon and then they tossed it from its cage down in front of the pit bull. They then stood there yelling and clapping and encouraging the pit bull to maul the raccoon to death in front of them - for their amusement.
Testimony indicated Bennett's cousin owned the dog, and Bennett and Sinkfield routinely let it kill raccoons, which they later ate.
Sinkfield was given five years' probation, but Carlisle deferred sentencing Bennett after Chaney questioned the judge's impartiality. Chaney argued at the time that he had received reports after Bennett's conviction that Carlisle was an animal rights advocate.
In court on Thursday, Chaney once again raised the issue while arguing for the new trial.
"If that was information we were aware of [before trial), then we would have made a more intelligent decision about going to trial before the court," Chaney said.
Prosecutor Alex Cosas argued the judge showed "no strong bias" during the one-day trial. "A love of animals is insufficient grounds to order a new trial," he said.
Carlisle agreed, sentencing Bennett to 18 months because of Bennett's earlier convictions for rape, burglary, drug possession and drug distribution.
(Sun Sentinel - September 15, 1995)