Tuesday, September 13, 2011
'Casper' Case Ends With Stiff Sentence - Jeremy Campbell
TAMPA - He's the dog that broke our hearts and then captured them.
When we first met Casper, he looked like nothing but an abused bag of bones. On Friday, the man accused of the abuse found out his punishment -- and it was unprecedented.
Judges had the option of this stiff sentence in other animal abuse cases, but it took Casper's case for that punishment to stick.
Wilmer Fernandez will serve a 15-month prison sentence.
"There was so much attention on this animal in this case in this community, and the good thing --even though it's been three years -- is it's kept everybody kind of holding hands for three years. So maybe it's made us all stronger for us to push forward with these prosecutions," said Dennis McCullough of Hillsborough County Animal Services.
An appellant judge upheld the 15-month sentence. It's one of the stiffest punishments ever issued for an animal abuse case here.
Historically, judges rarely call for the maximum punishment for animal abuse, but Casper's case is anything but ordinary.
The boxer was found three years ago in Carrollwood -- chained, starving, and looking a little ghostlike. But Casper survived.
He was adopted in 2009. He's up to 80 pounds now, more than twice his weight when investigators found him.
In court, Fernandez's attorneys were pushing for a lighter sentence, but the judge denied their appeal.
The ruling could change how judges sentence future cases of animal abuse.
"Today is closure and we send a strong message, I hope, in Hillsborough County: If you commit animal cruelty, you'll be punished," McCullough added.