It isn’t the 270 days in jail that Brenden Geary will find most punishing: he had himself asked the judge for 210 days for what he admitted was the “heinous crime” of brutalizing his then-boyfriend’s 11-pound Yorkshire terrier last March by choking it, throwing it against the wall and leaving it unresponsive on the spot of carpet the dog had soiled, enraging him.
It isn’t the five years’ probation the former resident of 3 Winchester Place in Palm Coast will find so insurmountable: he’ll go through probation’s steps, pay restitution and fines and likely manage to end probation early, as those who meet all its requirements usually do. The former Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University engineering student has the family support and commitment to help him through.
But what will be less insurmountable is the lifetime designation as a felon. He may never need food stamps, welfare or public housing, all of which he may be ineligible for, but he may also be ineligible for federal education assistance, he may be barred from a series of professional licenses and employment opportunities–most states allow employers to ask whether a job applicant has a criminal record or is a felon–he’s lost the right to vote, even his driver’s license is in jeopardy.
Geary, who turns 22 in August, and his attorney had asked the judge to withhold adjudication precisely to avoid the felon designation: Geary had a spotless record before his arrest on March 5. He’d had issues, as his oldest sister, one of four siblings, told the judge today, but that’s because he’d lost his mother to an accident when he was 5, a loss that hit him hardest among the five children. He’d done well enough in school to make it to Embry-Riddle, but moving from the West Coast to Florida cost him his support group. He told the judge he felt “massively overwhelmed” at school, and that day when he came home to find Dixie–the dog–had soiled the carpet, he lost it and made the dog pay the price.
“I committed a heinous crime for something I don’t have an explanation for,” he said, and he’s spent his time since trying to figure out “what road I took to get here, because obviously it was the wrong one.”
Circuit Judge Terence Perkins said he would normally have granted the request to withhold adjudication. That’s what he routinely does when faced with a first-time offender. Not in Geary’s case, however. Perkins, who took over Flagler’s felony bench this month, felt compelled to explain his decision.
“What I’m concerned about is that cruelty to animals of this dimension has been shown to be related in some ways to much troubling and violent behavior,” Perkins said as Geary stood in front of him in his orange garb, hands and feet shackled. “And I don’t know whether this is an isolated event, I hope it is. Whether it is or not, I want to make sure, with regards to a conviction there are consequences that are associated with that that would control other behavior.”
So Perkins adjudicated him guilty on a third-degree charge of animal cruelty with great harm this afternoon at the end of an hour-long sentencing hearing. (Perkins’s concern has been repeatedly documented. “A paper published in a psychiatry journal in 2004, ‘A Study of Firesetting and Animal Cruelty in Children: Family Influences and Adolescent Outcomes,’ found that over a 10-year period, 6-to-12-year-old children who were described as being cruel to animals were more than twice as likely as other children in the study to be reported to juvenile authorities for a violent offense,” The New York Times reported in 2010. “In an October 2005 paper published in Journal of Community Health, a team of researchers conducting a study over seven years in 11 metropolitan areas determined that pet abuse was one of five factors that predicted who would begin other abusive behaviors. In a 1995 study, nearly a third of pet-owning victims of domestic abuse, meanwhile, reported that one or more of their children had killed or harmed a pet.” Further studies have added to the literature.
In attendance at today’s sentencing of Geary were his former boyfriend, the now-22-year-old owner of Dixie whose house Geary had shared. Dixie has since recovered and was, after some trepidation on the part of animal control and shelter officials, returned to its owner. Perkins asked the dog’s owner whether he wished to address the court. He declined. But he sat with his mother and Geary’s sister throughout the hearing and the trio walked out together afterward, continuing to talk in the parking lot.
Geary has been held at the Flagler County jail without bond since his arrest. The 114 days will count as credit toward his 270-day, or nine-month, sentence, and his five years of probation date back to his first day of incarceration. So he will be leaving jail a few weeks before Christmas. The judge granted him another request: to transfer his probation to Los Angeles, where he plans to relocate, with his sister’s help. His sister, a television-program editor, and her husband, plan on finding him an apartment: he would have lived with them, but they have pets, and Geary is no longer allowed to own pets for the rest of his life. She told the court they will ensure that he has the family’s support–he will be invited to family night every Sunday–but he’ll be faced with a combination of care and “tough love.”
“I’m definitely not giving him a free ride,” his older sister, who’d also flown in last April for his arraignment, told the court, elaborating on a letter she’d written the judge. It’ll be love, support and “the kick in the butt that he needs as well.” She insisted that the incarceration had affected her brother deeply, that he’s been “absolutely disgusted with what he did” and that there’d been no precedent for it even as he grew up among pets in his youth: the family would take in stray cats.
Geary’s older sister alone testified on his behalf in person, but the court also considered letters from Geary’s father, grandfather, another sister, and his former wrestling coach, each a heartfelt plea as wrenching and unique to those writing them as they are common in sentencing hearing records. Those letters were not read during the hearing.
Geary had initially lied to authorities about how the dog had ended up so severely injured, after its owner took 11-lb-Dixie to the vet. The veterinary office immediately called the sheriff’s office, suspecting abuse, according to the arrest report. The sheriff’s Detective Annie Conrad, who’s investigated some 20 animal abuse cases in her 10 years as a detective, was on the case, and soon determined that the story he was telling her was “inconsistent” with the evidence of what she described as “an extremely violent attack” she observed back at the W-Section house. Confronted with the inconsistencies, Geary owned up to his acts, broke down.
“When you saw him crying you tried to console him, right?” Bill Bookhammer, Geary’s public defender, asked Conrad when she was on the stand.
“Yeah, I always do that,” said the detective, who has a reputation for compassion for all involved no matter the situation. “You want to believe that everybody is genuine.”
Mike Stover, the assistant state attorney who recently began prosecuting cases in Flagler, described the case to the judge as “equal parts tragic and toubling,” and said that while he was not arguing for more jail, he said the violence of the attack “went beyond the excusable,” and that when both the detective and Geary use the same word to describe the acts (“heinous”) there should be consequences–and a psychiatric evaluation, something Geary has never had. But, Stover said in closing, “on behalf of the state I do wish him the best.”
Flagler Female says
So glad to see Judges giving stiff penalties for animal abuse. We must protect the souls that do not have a voice or choice in this world. Also, animal cruelty is a big, red flag for possible future crimes against humans. Too bad they can’t also ban him from owning an animal for the rest of his life.
Concerned Citizen says
I could give damn if he was crying to the Detective after he got caught. They are always sorry when caught. Was he sorry when abusing that little Yorkie?
We need to start maxing out violent crimes. Human or animal abuse should get you the max allowed. It might be your first time getting caught but this stuff always shows a pattern.
Also it was his choice to do what he did. He needs to deal with the consequences of being a convicted felon.
We need to stop pleading stuff just because the courts and jails are too full. Maybe on minor offenses yes. Violent crimes max it out.
Boohoo next would be a person bye bye
Catherine Watson says
Sickening excuse for a human being, picking on a defenseless little dog. He should be doing hard time. Then he’d see what it’s like to be kicked around by much bigger monsters than himself. I don’t know how he will ever be monitored to make sure he never owns a pet as long as he lives, but you can be sure this won’t be an isolated incident. They never are.
Can’t do the time then don’t do the crime! Let this be a warning and a lesson to animal abusers that this will not be tolerated. We are a nation of laws unless you are a Clinton.
Jolene Dehart says
Poor childhood absolutely a POOR excuse. No concern or care or empathy for the dog or the dog’s owner.
Hugh Jass says
His hair is on point, they must have a hair stylist up in the county jail. Such a shame, he’s black balled for life. Can’t even own a gun.
Born and Raised Here says
Cruelty to a animal should be treated with the most highest of punishment, right up there as a violation to a human being. This young man just choose they his life. What respectable employer or Armed Forces will consider him for employment or to serve our Country.
Lt Frank says
When you leave a human NO WAY to their freedom in the future, you create a MONSTER. This one will come back and BITE harder then before. Mark my words !
Another slap on the wrist. 😬
Bunnell boy says
This time a dog, next time a child or an adult. A good ole slap on the wrist again!
Maybe a fellow prisoner will throw him up against the wall. He acts like a real tough guy that will cry in prison because he’s being picked on.
What this young male should worry about is good old Karma. I call him a young male as he is not fitting of the term “young man” or “older boy” as that is too humanizing for him. I hope you cry into your pillow every night due to being upset about being a “convicted felon” Don’t worry, seems many people want to restore your rights, I don’t, and never will, you made your choice.
Just The Truth says
Thank you your Honor for your compassion to animal abusers. I just wished his sentence would have been longer. This scum bag has a violent temper and it did not just happen that one day, so his family can give us that sad story it is because his mother died when he was 5 yrs old, sorry for playing that sympathy card, but I don’t buy it.
Amen to EVERYTHING you said!!!!!
The creep would do the same thing to a human, he’s evil.
I want to give the judge, investigating officer, and prosecutor a huge THANK YOU for sentencing this abuser more sternly than animal abusers usually are. I hope you keep up the good work and that Flagler is a beacon for how animal abusers should be punished, although I would have liked it more if he had gotten a longer sentence. people who take out their anger on other living things, whether human or animal should be put behind bars. Denying him the right to own an animal for his whole life is also the right thing to do. Thank you for doing what the justice system should do.
Doreen Rasanen says
I BELIEVE IN THE DEATH PENALTY FOR ALL ANIMAL ABUSERS, CHILD PORNERS, DRUG DEALERS,
PEDOPHILES, RAPISTS, ENVIRONMENT ABUSERS, AND SENIOR ABUSERS, AND THE QUEERS WHO
ARE NOT BORN THAT WAY BUT CHOOSE TO BE.
WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD WE WOULD HAVE THEN, WHEN ALL THIS IS DISAPPEARING.
DEATH PENALTY IF CHEAP, QUICK, AND GONE FOREVER.
First animals, then people, remember John Pelicier? This is the first sign of a murderer. If you can have the caliceness to take the life an animal while in rage, you are capable of killing another human being.
Lots of people have suffered losses and traumas in childhood. That doesn’t excuse–or even explain– brutalizing animals. This guy needs a full Psych evaluation. Something ain’t right in dodge with this guy.