Louisville man’s dog-killing charge upgraded to felony
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The case against a Louisville man charged with killing a neighbor’s dog has been elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony, which carries stiffer penalties.
Fred Lee Wright, 62, Cub Drive, Louisville, was originally charged with the intentional killing of an animal, a misdemeanor which carries a maximum 11-month, 29-day sentence in the county jail and a maximum $2,500 fine.
Blount County Assistant District Attorney General Ellen Berez amended the motion to change the charge to aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony which carries a maximum prison sentence of one to two years with a minimum fine of $3,000 and a maximum fine of $50,000.
Blount County General Sessions Court Judge Robert L. Headrick approved the amendment.
Wright’s neighbor, Diane Stephens, has a no-contact order of protection against Wright, which is good for one year. Wright was charged with violating that order and received a 10-day jail sentence, which will be taken off the time he has already served.
Headrick warned Wright that any other violation of that order will carry a 10-day jail sentence for each charge.
Nick Black, Wright’s Maryville attorney, said he was surprised at the change from a misdemeanor to a felony charge. Berez “sprung that on us pretty late in the process,” he said.
Black said when they came to court Thursday, Wright was ready to plead guilty to the two misdemeanor offenses of killing the dog and stalking Stephens.
He blamed outside influences, mainly media coverage, for causing the misdemeanor to be changed to a felony offense.
“There have been worse crimes and worse defendants,” he said.
Black said it is not unusual in such a situation for the prosecution to offer the accused a plea bargain of probation, but Berez did not even make Wright an offer.
Of the charge change, Berez said she thinks the ruling was “absolutely a victory for today.”
Now the prosecution will have to prove its case, said Black.
Under questioning by Headrick, Wright said he owns four guns — two pistols, a rifle and a shotgun.
Headrick said due to the order of protection, Wright cannot own or possess any type firearm and must get rid of the guns.
Headick set Wright’s preliminary hearing for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Wright will remain in Blount County Jail until the hearing.