Thursday, August 17, 1995

Florida: Roy Bennett, 27, and Alex Sinkfield, 38, convicted of throwing trapped raccoon to pit bull to be torn to pieces while they watched

FLORIDA -- Does being a pet owner make a judge an animal rights activist?

Because Palm Beach County Circuit Judge James T. Carlisle owns several pets and has cared for strays, a defense attorney on Wednesday questioned the judge's impartiality in sentencing a man on animal baiting charges.

"In fairness to my client, I have an obligation to raise that issue," defense attorney Wilbur Chaney told Carlisle.

"You do have that right," said Carlisle, who delayed the sentencing so he could hold a hearing on the issue next week.

When a question of impartiality is raised, a judge is required by law to address the question.

Chaney represents Roy Bennett, a Delray Beach man whom Carlisle convicted last week of trapping a raccoon and then dumping it out right in front of a pit bull terrier, which then tore it to pieces while they hooted and hollered.

Since the non-jury trial, Chaney said, several people told him that Carlisle was an "animal rights advocate."The reports, Chaney said, indicated Carlisle owns several pets and that "he used to take in strays."

Because the case remains open, Carlisle cannot comment.

Bennett, 27, and his friend, Alex Sinkfield, 38, were arrested in January after two Delray Beach detectives drove by Bennett's home and saw the dog, owned by Bennett's cousin, mauling the raccoon.

"The dog had its face buried into the stomach of the raccoon and shaking it about," Detective Jack Mackler testified on Wednesday. "Everybody there was smiling and laughing. It was all a big joke."

Apparently, the white pit bull was covered in the raccoons blood, the raccoons guts were hanging out - and yet it was still alive. Animal Control responded and euthanized the suffering, dying animal. 

The good news is that the pit bull was also euthanized.

As the detectives approached, several men ran, leaving behind Bennett and Sinkfield.

Sinkfield tried to load a cage, which had earlier held the raccoon, into a truck and leave, but the detectives stopped him, police said.

Bennett told detectives it was common practice to let the dog kill raccoons, which were eaten by his family. He directed detectives to a refrigerator inside the home that held seven frozen raccoon carcasses.

Bennett, who has a lengthy criminal record with convictions for rape, burglary, drug possession and distribution, faces a maximum sentence of 18 months.

Sinkfield, with a drug possession conviction, faced up to a year in jail, but Carlisle sentenced him Wednesday to five years' probation.

(Sun Sentinel - August 17, 1995)