(ANIMAL NEWS/ANIMAL CRUELTY) In a case that’s been closely monitored by animal rights advocates across the country, a judge sentenced a San Jose man with the maximum term allowed (16 years) after he admitted to kidnapping, torturing, and killing nearly two dozen cats in a gruesome crime spree spanning over two months.
The 26-year-old man, Robert Farmer–who the judge referred to as a danger to society–pleaded guilty to 20 counts of felony animal cruelty, one count of attempted felony animal cruelty, as well as two misdemeanors.
The judge’s verdict was a bittersweet outcome for those whose pets began disappearing almost two years ago. While many of the families of the cat victims are pleased with the judge’s decision, others believe the maximum 16-year sentence is still not long enough.
But just imagine how many lives were saved by taking this predator off the streets. In addition to giving Farmer the maximum sentence, Judge Chatman also took pains to list every cat victim by name–demonstrating the significant role our pets play in our families’ lives.
Continue reading for more on the court ruling and see how animal lovers in the courtroom audience intend to establish an animal abuse registry in California. — Global Animal
Mercury News, Tracey Kaplan
SAN JOSE — After hearing emotional pleas from pet owners about their slain animals, a judge Friday sentenced a San Jose man who pleaded guilty to torturing and killing more than a dozen cats to 16 years behind bars.
However, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sharon A. Chatman rejected the prosecution’s request that Robert Farmer be required to register as a sex offender on the grounds that the circumstantial forensic evidence was not strong enough for her to definitively conclude he had sexually abused one of the slain animals.
Without the sex registration requirement, Farmer will serve his sentence in county jail, not prison, under a state program to reduce prison overcrowding.
Farmer, 26, has been jailed since October 2015 when San Jose police found him asleep inside his car with a dead cat next to him. Police later determined he killed 18 cats and injured three others in a gruesome crime spree that stretched over two months. He also was accused of hitting the grandson of his 83-year-old landlady in the head.
The courtroom was packed with the pet owners and their families, their neighbors in the Cambrian Park neighborhood and other animal lovers, many of whom were wearing purple ribbons with white cat paws. Many in the audience cried as several cat owners read statements.
Miriam Petrova described how easygoing and loving her 17-year-old orange tabby “Gogo” was before being tortured to death.
“Robert Farmer is a monster who has no mercy and who victimized the most innocent member of our family,” Petrova said, adding she does not believe he can change and imploring the judge to impose the 16-year maximum sentence. “Please send a strong and clear message that this community will not tolerate any animal abuse.”
Farmer pleaded guilty in October to 20 counts of felony animal cruelty, one count of attempted felony animal cruelty, one count of simple battery and one count of using or being under the influence of a controlled substance, methamphetamine. With credit for good behavior since his arrest, he is set to spend 13 more years behind bars unless he violates rules or commits any crimes while in custody.
Farmer’s lawyer Wes Schroeder acknowledged in a sentencing memorandum that his behavior was “completely unacceptable,” but added that “it should be put in the context of Robert’s altered mental state created by the monstrosity of his methamphetamine addiction.”
The county’s probation department recommended nine years, accompanied by intensive post-release counseling and supervision. Prosecutors pushed for the maximum term.
The judge rejected the notion that Farmer was in a methamphetamine ”frenzy,” as well as his contention in a letter to her that he would never do something as “cruel, sadistic and inexcusable” again. Chatman noted that Farmer preyed on elderly, trusting cats who were beloved by many in the Cambrian Park neighborhood.
“He likes to hurt living things,” Chatman said. “We need to make sure he doesn’t do that for as long as possible.”
After Farmer is released in 2030, he will be on “mandatory supervision,” a strict form of probation, for three years. Under the conditions set by Chatman, he will not be allowed to own, care for or live with an animal for 10 years. He also must undergo psychological treatment, including taking any psychotropic drugs that are prescribed, as well as stay 100 yards away from the Cambrian Park area; specifically zip code 95124. Other conditions include mandatory drug testing.
Farmer was arrested in October 2015 after San Jose police officers found him asleep in his car with an orange female tabby cat squeezed inside a center console. That cat — referred to as “Tabby Doe” in court proceedings — became the focal point of the prosecution’s argument for requiring Farmer to register as a sex offender when he’s eventually released from jail.
Dr. Sharon Ostermann, a veterinarian for San Jose Animal Care and Services, testified in a pre-sentencing hearing that “Tabby Doe” turned out to have injuries consistent with post-mortem sexual assault. But Chatman said Friday that none of the animals were tested for semen — apparently because there was no immediate indication they had been sexually assaulted — and none was found on Farmer’s clothing or car.
It is unclear whether anyone in California has had to register for sexually abusing an animal, but Santa Clara County deputy district attorney Alexandra Ellis had argued that the judge had the authority to make that decision. Ellis also argued Friday that Farmer presented a “phenomenal risk” of re-offending.
Defense attorney Schroeder said Farmer’s family plans to hire a therapist to treat him while he is in jail. Farmer’s father is a retired San Jose police captain, he said.
Animal lovers in the audience were pleased with Chatman’s decision, and the fact that she took pains to list every cat by name, from “Does” 1 through 11, to Angel, Gogo, Rayden, Thumper, Jupiter, Traveler and Tiger.
“The judge did everything she could possibly do,” said Olena Klingman.
Audience member Gayle Goodson agreed, but said that as a result of the case, the group will explore the possibility of setting up an animal abuse registry in California, similar to the sex offender registry.
More Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/07/14/san-jose-cat-killer-sentenced/