Sunday, July 12, 2009

Honestly, jail way too comfy for this character

His credentials say "FBI," but the rap sheet for Lovett Leslie Ledger Jr. says "one sick puppy."

He may claim to have had his head on straight when he used an air rifle to plug a tiny dog.

He may claim that what he did is not so demented as to preclude him from carrying FBI credentials and arresting you and me.

That depends on what we want from our FBI agents.

This one is sick.

Last week he pleaded no contest to a state jail felony charge of animal cruelty in the death of his neighbors' Chihuahua.

So doing, he wriggled his way out of the "jail" part of that felony. District Judge Matt Johnson sentenced him to two years deferred probation and 300 hours community service.

Many readers found Ledger's penalty ridiculously lenient. They thought he should have at least spent a night in that state jail.

More grievous: Deferred probation means that if Ledger successfully completes his probation there would be no final judgment of guilt.

Ledger could represent the law again as if no offense ever happened.

This for two crimes: one, killing the neighbor's dog; two, lying to investigators about it. If you analyze it, you acknowledge that prisons are packed with dual offenders of this nature. They committed a crime, then lied to investigators and/or a jury about it.

The FBI oath says: "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Whatever its lineage, a Chihuahua doesn't meet either definition of a public enemy. And if the dog's a nuisance, we have remedies other than pellet guns.

It takes some chutzpah to be a Chihuahua hunter. Some aim, too.

That is, this crime took some doing, and some malice aforethought.

It's the kind of malice that often gets acted out in other ways — a good reason why we darned well ought to take animal cruelty seriously. It is a telltale harbinger of even more unmentionable acts.

Self-defense? We hear about the rancher rightfully protecting his herd from roving dogs. We hear about animals that menace and attack.

A Chihuahua? This one's name was Sassy. Three whole pounds of menace.

Well, so much for heightened animal cruelty penalties in Texas, sanctions inspired by another celebrated Waco atrocity.

Two Baylor University baseball players were arrested in 2001 on charges of shooting and decapitating a stray cat that employees of the Taco Cabana had befriended, fed and named Queso.

The story drew worldwide attention.

Taunts at the ballpark and infamy in the press were the only penalties the offenders incurred, though. A jury acquitted the first of the loose-cannon jocks in part because Queso had no owner. Charges against the other were dropped afterward.

With Queso as a sad cause celebre, the Texas Legislature changed the law, elevating comparable acts from misdemeanors to felonies, and taking away the "no-owner" defense.

Sassy had owners, the Jason Davis family. And Sassy had a pink collar. Just below that collar landed the shot that killed her.

So, deferred probation for the federal agent/dog killer, eh? I agree with the readers. That's ridiculous.

But I'll differ with those who think that jail is the suitable sanction for Ledger. Considering his crime, jail is a little too cushy.

A man who pleads guilty to such an act should be dusted with flea powder, bathed with a garden hose, and sent to bed for a few nights at the local animal shelter.

Oh, and if such an offender happens to be an agent of the law, his first act out of the puppy pokey should be to find another career.

John Young writes for the Waco Tribune-Herald. E-mail:

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