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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Not guilty verdict in animal cruelty case

  • A Leavenworth man has been found not guilty of felony animal cruelty, according to a prosecution official.
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  • A Leavenworth man has been found not guilty of felony animal cruelty, according to a prosecution official.
    A jury acquitted Jareld Halstead following a trial Monday in Leavenworth County District Court.
    Halstead was accused of leaving a wounded animal in a garbage bag near a wooded area in the 1500 block of Choctaw Street. The dog had been shot by Halstead's friend, Josh Elliott.
    Elliott shot the dog in the head July 8 at his home. The animal later was put down by police.
    Elliott pleaded guilty in August to felony animal cruelty. He later received a 180-day jail sentence and probation.
    During Monday's trial of Halstead, District Judge Gunnar Sundby allowed the inclusion of a misdemeanor form of animal cruelty that could have been considered by jurors as an alternative to the felony count. The misdemeanor count involved leaving an animal without provisions for its care.
    Jury selection for the trial began Monday morning followed by the testimony of prosecution and defense witnesses in the afternoon.
    The defense did not dispute that Halstead had carried the dog in a garbage bag to a wooded area about half a block from Elliott's home.
    Halstead testified he had believed the dog was dead.
    During her closing argument, the prosecutor, Assistant County Attorney Sherri Becker, said the crux of the case against was whether Halstead had known the wounded animal was still alive when he left it outside in a garbage bag on a summer day.
    Becker pointed to testimony by police officers indicating Halstead did not tell them July 8 he thought the dog had been dead.
    "Those words never came out of his mouth," she said.
    She also noted the testimony of Shawn Logan, who lives in the neighborhood where the dog was shot, and his 14-year-old son. Both testified they heard a yelp when Halstead left the garbage bag near the wooded area.
    They also testified the dog appeared to be breathing when each of them checked on the bag. Police officers who responded to the scene also testified the dog was breathing and moving its eyes.
    Becker questioned whether it made sense that the dog would all of the sudden start breathing after it had been left by the defendant.
    During his closing argument, Halstead's attorney, Michael Willcott, said his client had been worried about Elliott's young children returning home and seeing the dog after it was shot.
    "What was the first reaction?," Willcott said. "Protect the children."
    Willcott said Halstead had used the facts he had and made the decision that the dog was dead.
    The defense attorney noted that assumptions police officers had made about the dog at the scene also turned out to be incorrect.
    Page 2 of 2 - Officers testified they initially thought the dog may have had other types of wounds such as injured legs.
    Willcott asked what the difference was between the decision Halstead made and the assessment made by the officers.
    The defense attorney said there was no evidence his client meant to do any harm to the dog.
    The prosecution witnesses included people who lived in the neighborhood where the dog was shot as well as officers who responded to the scene.
    Defense witnesses including a veterinarian who examined the dog after it had been put down as well as Elliott and Halstead.
    During his testimony, Elliott said he also had believed the dog was dead. He testified that he and Halstead had planned to later pick up the dog's body and bury it at another location.
    When asked why he didn't call the police, Elliott said, "I don't have a good answer for that."
    Halstead testified he had been at Elliott's residence when he heard a gunshot. He went into the kitchen and saw the dog.
    "I saw the dog lying in a giant puddle of blood," he said.
    The defendant said Elliott put the dog in the bag and cleaned up the blood. But Halstead admitted he had carried the dog out of the house.
    "I wanted to get the dog away from the house," he said.
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