In a sentencing hearing characterized more by the heartfelt than the harsh, Angel Roman, the 29-year-old Palm Coast resident who pleaded no contest to brutal acts of cruelty toward kittens, was sentenced to a year of community control and four years of probation Monday afternoon.
The offense that was committed “was a particularly bad one. It was very bad,” Flagler County Circuit Judge J. David Walsh told Roman as he stood before the bench, next to his attorney. “And these types of offenses are deemed by society to be so bad that persons that commit them likely have to go to prison for a long time.”
Back in May, Roman, who was was living with roommates at Burton Place in Palm Coast, admitted to choking a kitten two weeks earlier, accidentally, and also that he “bit the lips off one of the kittens and burnt its ear and whiskers with a lighter,” according to a police report filed at the time. But an official from Flagler and Volusia Support Services told cops that “Roman suffers from several mental illnesses and he believed that Roman needed to be Baker Acted for his safety and the safety of others.” (See the details on the case here.)
Roman was in fact Baker Acted. He was subsequently arrested and jailed on $100,000 bond, on a charge of cruelty to animals. He remained at the Flagler County jail for the last 266 days. He could have faced serious prison time. But between his history of mental issues (and arrests on more minor issues), his attorney’s plea that his mental retardation and various forms of substance abuse be considered, and the judge’s own understanding of the evidence, Roman will be spared prison time.
“Our society also has deemed that certain persons that might commit certain offenses aren’t necessarily the kind of persons that need to go to prison,” Walsh said. “The days that we put such persons in prison are long gone.” It’ is society’s responsibility, he went on, to assume the costs of certain people’s treatment. If the state fails in that responsibility, the individual should not pay through prison, in Walsh’s judgment.
Roman was sentenced to 266 days in jail, with credit for time served (that is, credit for the 266 days he served to date), but he was not let out on Monday. Walsh ordered him to remain at the jail—not as punishment, but until a suitable group home is found for him, so Roman can comply with the remaining terms of his sentence: one year of community control, and four years of probation. Community control is a stricter form of probation, when the individual must remain under strict, virtually daily supervision. In Roman’s case, Walsh wants him in a group home for the mentally disabled, where his comings and goings are strictly monitored, as is his intake of medicines.
“Certain mitigating circumstances have been established,” Walsh conceded in handing down the far more lenient sentence than he could have imposed.