Saturday, January 14, 2017

Massachusetts: John Leger, 31, arrested after witnesses said they saw him punching and kicking his pit bull on multiple occasions

MASSACHUSETTS -- A man who says he loves his pit bull "like a son" is being held on an animal cruelty charge, after he allegedly punched the dog repeatedly and dragged it by the collar from underneath a truck where it had sought refuge.

Police and animal welfare authorities are continuing to look into other complaints about John Leger's treatment of Bryson, a young male pit bull who is now in the custody of the Animal Rescue League.

John Leger, 31, of 64 Tremont St., Salem, pleaded not guilty to one count of animal cruelty during his arraignment Monday in Peabody District Court, where Judge Richard Mori set bail at $25,000.

That's the amount requested by prosecutor Lynsey Legier during a bail hearing where she said more charges may be forthcoming and that an indictment in the case, which would expose Leger to up to seven years in prison, is also expected.

Legier also asked Mori to revoke Leger's bail in an unrelated pending case, saying she believes he poses a danger.

"People do not want to come forward," said Legier, describing efforts by investigators to interview witnesses to the alleged abuse. "They are in fear of this defendant." The judge granted the detention request.

The dog, seized by police on Friday evening after Leger's arrest, appears to be healthy, except for a broken tooth, said the prosecutor.

On Nov. 14, a woman called Peabody's animal control officer to describe seeing a bearded man repeatedly punching a dog. The woman said she was on her porch when she heard a man yelling and the sound of whimpering. She then saw the man punch the dog, and watched as the dog scrambled underneath the truck. 

The bearded man, later identified as Leger, dragged the dog out by its collar and punched it several more times, then put the dog in the cab of the truck and went back into a barbershop. 

The woman said she went over to the truck and saw the dog shaking. After a few moments, the woman said, Leger came out of the shop and confronted her, yelling, "Trying to do your good deed for the day?" 

Previous complaints

Police identified Leger through the license plate number of the truck, which the woman had taken down. They learned Salem's animal control officer had also received complaints from witnesses who described Leger's mistreatment of the dog, including complaints that Leger let the dog off its leash and would kneel on the dog, pinning it to the ground.

But they hadn't been able to make a case because those witnesses have been too afraid to come forward.

In the course of the investigation, another witness described seeing the dog eat some hair off the floor in the barbershop on the night of Nov. 14, then vomit it back up before Leger took it back outside to the truck.

Leger's attorney, Reed Cutting, disputed the accounts by witnesses, saying, "Mr. Leger loves that dog like a son," and even has a tattoo of the dog.

"He swears to me he's never done anything to harm this pooch," said Cutting.

Parents who beat and abuse their children will swear that they love their child. Just because you love something or someone doesn't mean you won't abuse them.

Leger had, on Christmas, posted photos of the dog to a Facebook group for pit bull owners, looking for recommendations for a boarding kennel. In that post, he described the dog as "my best friend."

On the night of the alleged abuse, he said Leger was upset because the dog nearly ran into traffic. "He was yelling," Cutting said, saying his client was angry not only at the dog but at himself that night.

The dog's tooth, said the lawyer, was chipped from biting on things in Leger's home.

What other witnesses claim was Leger kneeling on the dog, the lawyer said, was actually simple "rough housing."

"They tend to get on the ground together," said Cutting.

Reed Cutting is a POS.

Mori, however, granted the prosecution's request, citing both Leger's "huge" criminal record and concerns about public safety.

"Many criminologists believe behavior toward animals indicates a person would do something to a human being," said Mori.

The judge also ordered that if Leger is released while the case is pending, he must have no contact with witnesses and may not own or live with any animals.

A status hearing was set for Feb. 7.

(Salem News - Jan 9, 2017)

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