LINCOLN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) — One year ago at this time, a dog now known as Durango was barely clinging to life.
“The infection was so widespread the maggots were literally eating him alive,” Eva Kordusky, president of the Boone County Animal Rescue Coalition (BARC), explained.
Durango has actually cuts all over his body and he was severely malnourished. Kordusky said could see the maggots eating his open flesh wounds.
“When I took him into the vet the next day, the call I got back was this dog was within 24 hours from death,” Kordusky said.
Durango was taken from his owner at a house in Yawkey by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department and put in the custody of BARC.
Days later, his owner was charged along with one count of cruelty to animals. The charge is a misdemeanor along with a possible fine of six months in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000 and a minimum of $300.
The defendant in the case pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay just $5.75.
She paid more in court costs at $160.25.
“That was shocking to us, very shocking to us, we were in disbelief,” Kordusky said.
The defendant’s guilty plea paperwork has actually the possible penalty of a minimum fine listed at $300.
On the next page, which is signed by Lincoln County Magistrate Sophia Tully, it shows the fine imposed was $5.75.
That amounts to $294.25 less than the minimum set forth by law.
The law also says that the defendant is prohibited from owning, possessing or residing along with animals for a period of five years as a part of her conviction. That also isn’t listed on this plea agreement paperwork, so there is no way to know if the defendant is aware.
WSAZ tried to ask magistrate Tully about the fine, but there was no response.
After several unreturned phone calls, WSAZ went to the Lincoln County Courthouse. Tully wasn’t working that day, but she told her assistant via text to have actually us talk to the Lincoln County Prosecutor James Gabehart.
Gabehart explained that the sentence is not in compliance along with the law in West Virginia and said it was an “oversight” on Tully’s part.
He said that Tully is in the end of hers second term and he’s never had any concern about her operating in a way that was inconsistent along with the law.
Gabehart said, as the Lincoln County Prosecutor, he agreed to a fine and no jail time as a part of the plea agreement in this case.
Gabehart said that they don’t handle several animal cruelty cases. He added that a common minimum fine in misdemeanor cases is $5.75, which could be the reason for the confusion. However the minimum fine set by state law is written on the paperwork that Tully signed off on.
“We are thankful that the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department went out and investigated, Kordusky said, “that was what prompted the surrender of him for him to be able to get care.”
A few days after WSAZ talked along with Prosecutor Gabehart, he let us know he filed a “motion for corrected sentencing order,” writing in the motion that “While the state is certain that the amount of the fine, which was assessed at an amount commonly assessed in misdemeanor cases, was an oversight on the part of the Court, it falls below the statutory minimum mandatory amount and is thus an illegal sentence.”
The motion asks the sentence to be changed to the mandatory minimum of $300. It also asks that the defendant in the case be made aware about the ban that comes along with her conviction. According to state law, she is not allowed to own, possesses or reside along with animals for five years.
In an email Gabehart wrote, “I’m confident that our motion will be successful in correcting the magistrate’s oversight in the prior sentencing order.”
Meanwhile, one year later, Durango is doing much better. He has actually large patches all over his body where the hair will never return because of the neglect and infection. Otherwise, he is happy and healthy.
He is currently in a foster house and waiting to be adopted by his forever family.