[UPDATED:] Verne Joseph Strong Guilty of Swinging Puppy on Leash While Arguing With His Girlfriend at Walmart, But DA is Doggone Mad Over Sentence
The judge allowed Strong to plead guilty to misdemeanor animal abuse by a caretaker instead of a felony, eliminating a sentencing enhancement for violating his parole for a second degree commercial burglary conviction. In addition to the jail sentence, he was placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay restitution to the animal shelter that cared for the puppy.
Meanwhile, a $25,000 arrest warrant has been issued for Strong's girlfriend, Angel Marie Holmes, who failed to appear at her arraignment on one felony count of accessory after the fact. Conviction could put the 37-year-old Newport Beach resident in state prison for three years.
Original Post, July 13, 2:30 p.m.: A 56-year-old Newport Beach man was being arraigned in Westminster today for allegedly swinging an 8-pound puppy on leash as he argued with his girlfriend in a Walmart parking lot.
Verne Joseph Strong is being charged with one felony count of animal abuse by a caretaker and a sentencing enhancement for a prior prison conviction for second degree commercial burglary, for which he is on parole. His girlfriend was also arrested for allegedly lying to officers about the the puppy swinging.
The Orange County District Attorney's Office statement on the case, which includes the welcome news that puppy Meanie is now in protective custody, follows after the jump . . .
July 13, 2010
PAROLEE TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR KICKING AND SLAPPING PUPPY AFTER SWINGING IT BY THE NECK USING LEASH AS A LASSO
WESTMINSTER - A parolee will be arraigned today for abusing an 8-pound puppy by using a leash as a lasso to swing it by the neck during an argument with his girlfriend in a Walmart parking lot. Verne Joseph Strong, 56, Newport Beach, was charged today with one felony count of animal abuse by a caretaker and a sentencing enhancement for a prior prison conviction for second degree commercial burglary, for which he is on parole. He faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted. The People will be requesting $50,000 bail at Strong's arraignment today, Tuesday, July 13, 2010, at 1:30 p.m. in Department W-14, West Justice Center, Westminster.
Strong's girlfriend, Angel Marie Holmes, 37, Newport Beach, is charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact and faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. Her arraignment date is to be determined.
At approximately 6:45 p.m. on July 11, 2010, Strong is accused of getting into a verbal argument with his girlfriend, Holmes, in a Walmart parking lot in Westminster. During the argument, he is accused of opening the trunk of his Chevrolet sedan and pulling out an 8-month-old chihuahua-dachshund mix puppy, which had been locked inside.
Strong is accused of swinging the 8-pound dog by the neck several feet off the ground using the leash in a lasso motion before throwing him to the ground. He is accused of then kicking the dog with force that caused the puppy to slide across the asphalt under the car.
Strong is accused of retrieving the dog and getting into the car with Holmes. Witnesses in the parking lot called 911. Westminster Police Officers arrived to find Strong and Holmes still parked in the Walmart parking lot, sleeping in their car.
As an officer approached the car window to make contact with the defendant, the puppy began to bark from inside the car. Strong is accused of slapping the dog in the head with a full swing of his arm, knocking the dog over and rendering him temporarily stunned and motionless as the officer watched from the other side of the window. Strong is accused of slapping the dog a second time before getting out of the car to speak with the officer.
Strong was arrested at the scene. When interviewed at the scene by officers, Holmes is accused helping Strong avoid prosecution by denying that Strong had swung or kicked the puppy and lying about the crime.
The puppy, Meanie, was taken to the humane society in Westminster for evaluation and treatment.
Deputy District Attorney Katherine David is prosecuting this case.