Summary of case: A pet sitter / house sitter named James Chiavetta, 54, was so afraid of the pit bulls at the house that he would use a stick to push their food dish under the fence.
On the fateful day that Cash Carson, 10, walked up the street to get to his "fort", Ciavetta decided to take a nap, leave the dogs out front, but not check to see whether the front gate was closed. It was not. The dogs chased Cash and his friend, and killed Cash.
Ciavetta was not convicted of second degree murder because three members of the jury felt that the charges were too harsh, in view of the fact that the dogs had never been trained, or known, to fight, attack or kill.
CALIFORNIA -- Emphasizing how defenseless a 10-year-old boy was against two pit-bull mix dogs that attacked and mauled him to death, a judge on Friday sentenced the animals’ former caretaker to the maximum prison term.
Barstow Superior Court Judge Thomas Glasser said little Cash Carson was “particularly vulnerable” to the dogs which “calls for and justifies” sentencing 54-year-old James Chiavetta
to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
“Cash Carson had no ability to fight the dogs off,” Glasser explained. “The dogs weighed more than the boy.”
Cash died on April 29, 2000, after Chiavetta unchained one of the dogs he was paid to care for and let it run loose in a yard on the 36600 block of Newberry Road.
Paid to care for? Who, then, is the owner of the dogs??
“The defendant’s actions caused the victim to be mauled by dogs,” Glasser said. “The terror Cash Carson must have suffered ... is just unimaginable. The defendant’s actions set into motion every child’s worst nightmare of dying (at the hands of) a vicious animal.”
Glasser broke with a probation officer’s recommendation for a three-year sentence, a move that Deputy District Attorney Steve Sinfield said is uncommon.
Glasser said Chiavetta has failed to take responsibility for his actions and has not displayed remorse for his “callous” actions.
Gloria White, Cash Carson’s grandmother, was the only member of the victim’s family present. She cried as the judge issued his findings.
“It’s over. That is a good thing,” she said after wiping her eyes with a white tissue.
Chiavetta, a Barstow resident, showed no reaction to Glasser’s decision.
Hours earlier, Chiavetta’s lawyer, Robert O’Connor, urged Glasser not to be swayed by the emotional issues surrounding this case.
“Society will not benefit from his incarceration,” O’Connor said. “ We should not be a system that puts a person in prison if they have no criminal intent because of (the) terribly tragic result to the victim. Putting him in prison does not bring (Cash Carson) back.”
Probation Officer David Karstetter, who wrote Chiavetta’s probation report, was initially against sending Chiavetta to prison because he showed “no criminal intent.”
“However,” Karstetter wrote, “because of the terribly tragic results for the victim in this case, it is the opinion of the probation officer that probation should be denied and the defendant receive a state prison sentence.”
O’Connor argued that sending Chiavetta to prison would endanger his health since prison officials may not permit him to take his medications as needed.
He held up a large Ziploc bag containing 10 medicine bottles belonging to his client.
“We already lost one life and that is tragic,” he said. “I think it would be unfortunate to endanger another as a result of this case.”
Chiavetta had a pacemaker implanted while he was in custody awaiting trial. He suffers from diabetes and needs a walker.
“There is nothing to indicate he intended any harm when he let Bear off the chain,” O’Connor reminded the court. “There was no animosity between Mr. Chiavetta and the victim’s family.”
O’Connor told the court that Chiavetta was an honest, decent man who served in the U.S. Army and presently works at Marine Corps Logistics Base as a hazardous-waste handler.
Glasser acknowledged that Chiavetta behaved like a “perfect gentleman” during court proceedings and had no criminal record prior to his May conviction for involuntary manslaughter.
After the sentencing, O’Connor requested his client be released until Oct. 5 so he could put his affairs in order. But Sinfield, who was clearly pleased with the judge’s decision, objected to any further delays.
Chiavetta had ample opportunity to get his affairs in order during the four months between his conviction and sentencing, the prosecutor said.
Glasser ordered the defendant be taken into custody immediately.
Chiavetta moved slowly, leaning on his walker as the bailiff escorted his out of the courtroom.
O’Connor declined to comment after the proceedings. Chiavetta has 60 days to file a notice of appeal.
Sinfield does not expect this case to have any impact on other criminal cases involving dogs that have killed people, including the highly publicized San Francisco case in which a woman was mauled to death.
(Desert Dispatch - September 29, 2001