By Kevin Deutsch
An appellate court has overturned the conviction of a Bronx man accused of torturing and beating his 4-month-old pit bull puppy to death.
Dwayne Gentles, who served a one-year prison sentence for his 2015 conviction for animal cruelty, won his appeal on the grounds the Bronx trial judge issued overly broad jury instructions, the New York Appelate Division’s First Department said in their April 4 decision.
Witnesses testified to hearing whimpers of pain from the injured dog, named Brandy, from behind Gentles’ apartment door at 456 Commonwealth Avenue.
The puppy suffered 13 broken ribs, a broken jaw that left her unable to eat, shattered teeth, and two broken legs, prosecutors said.
Several days before Christmas 2012, Gentles carried the dog into a veterinary emergency room. She couldn’t walk and was barely conscious, prosecutors said. Unable to save her, veterinarians humanely euthanized the battered pup.
The ASPCA was notified of Brandy’s injuries and launched a probe. The organization’s forensic veterinarian found she’d suffered internal injuries caused by blunt force trauma. She’d also suffered likely brain damage, and was infested with fleas, prosecutors said.
It took jurors 15 minutes to convict Gentles of abusing the dog.
But the trial judge, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Miriam Best, erred when she read the applicable statute to jurors “almost in its entirety, including a provision that would allow the jury to convict defendant if he merely permitted another person to mistreat his dog,” the First Department said in its decision.
That provision described an “entirely different” way of committing the crime, and could have led the jury to infer that Gentles took the blame for beating the dog in order to cover for his uncle, “who lived with defendant and made inconsistent statements about whether he witnessed defendant beating the dog,” the judges ruled.
Rather than dismiss the indictment against Gentles, the court ordered he stand trial again, meaning the original charges against him still stand.
Neither Gentles nor his attorney could immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.