Burned Pit Bull Maximus' Suspected Murderer Indicted
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Grand jury indicts man in dog burning case
By FRANK ELTMAN | Associated Press Writer
GARDEN CITY, N.Y. - A judge doubled the bail Tuesday for a Long Island man accused of burning his pit bull alive after a grand jury returned an indictment charging the suspect with two felony counts of animal cruelty and other offenses.
Derick Phanord's attorney claimed after the arraignment in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead that his client's family has been receiving anonymous threatening telephone calls and messages at his Brentwood home since his arrest last month.
Phanord, 22, was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail after he pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, as well as weapons possession and traffic charges. If convicted, he could face two years in prison, prosecutors said.
The dog, a pit bull called Maximus by his rescuers, died last month after three surgeries. Authorities said the animal smelled of gasoline when he was found July 12 tethered to a tree, still alive, with burns over 60 percent of his body.
Phanord "walked away while the dog was still burning," said Assistant District Attorney Michelle Auletta,
Phanord, who is unemployed, had been held on $50,000 bail since his arrest last month, but County Court Judge C. Randall Hinrichs doubled that amount after a grand jury indicted Phanord on Tuesday. He did not immediately post bail.
Phanord's attorney, Sean Sabeti, said his client would likely employ a "temporary insanity" defense, claiming that Phanord was angry "Maximus" had attacked another of his dogs, blinding the other animal in one eye. Authorities seized that animal following Phanord's arrest.
"The young man must have been in tremendous shock in order to conduct himself that way," said Sabeti, who said his client was a special education student who never graduated high school. "Maybe the anger of Derick arose from the attack the pit bull made on his puppy?"
Sabeti, who said Phanord's family has been receiving threats ever since his arrest, said his client is "extremely, extremely remorseful. He doesn't know what he can do to correct the past."
Sabeti also appealed for an end to threats he said have been made to Phanord's home. Phanord has been the target of derision and ridicule on various animal rights Web sites since the allegations of abuse surfaced.