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FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2007
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Lucky's former owner receives probation, fine

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

Lucky's former owner will not go to jail, but will pay $4,000 in fines plus court costs and restitution.

Morgan County Circuit Judge Sherrie Paler suspended a 12-month jail sentence for Samuel Sanders, 27, and placed him on probation for 24 months.

Paler sentenced Sanders for second-degree cruelty to a dog and falsely reporting the theft of a dog, both misdemeanors. Paler imposed a $2,000 fine for each count.

In addition, Paler ordered Sanders to pay $2,321 in restitution, and he must complete 200 hours of community service with Happy Trails Humane Society in Tennessee. Sanders' attorney, Scott Anderson, told the judge that his client had already done about 60 hours at the animal shelter there. He started the service on his own in September. Anderson said he cleaned dog pens, swept and mopped floors. He did not deal with the animals.

Anderson told Paler he tried to plea bargain with the district attorney's office for the verdict a jury returned in March. The jury found Sanders guilty of the misdemeanor rather than the felony as Anderson requested.

Sanders tried to pay veterinarian Steve Osborne for Lucky's treatment and that was not accepted, said Anderson.

Grandmother's plea

Anderson called on Sanders' grandmother to speak on his behalf. Countess Vinson told the court that Sanders had never been in trouble and that he was her life support. She said she turned 80 on Thursday and that she is not a healthy woman. She said Sanders cooks her meals and does chores around her home when he's off work.

She asked Paler to give him a second chance.

Sanders also spoke.

"I'm sorry for everything that went on," Sanders said. "Please give me another chance, and I promise I won't ever be back in your courtroom again."

Paler denied Assistant District Attorney Paul Matthews' request to call people to have input on Sanders' sentence. The judge told Matthews that he knew it would be unconstitutional for the public to have input in sentencing. Also, Paler said, letters that people wrote regarding Sanders' sentencing would not be considered because that would be unconstitutional also.

Sanders said during his trial that he went home Feb. 21, 2006, and found Lucky, whom he called Rocky, mangled. He said he believed that a pit bull he owned attacked Lucky. He said he thought Lucky was dead or almost dead.

He said he panicked and duct-taped the dog's mouth, placed him partially in a garbage bag and took him to a city Dumpster on Central Parkway Southwest.

A city sanitation worker found the dog hours later and took him to Osborne Animal Clinic. Osborne treated the animal and in the process had to amputate one of his legs.

Osborne said the dog's wounds were consistent with dog fighting. A city detective said during Sanders' trial that no evidence was found that indicated he was involved in dog fighting.

Lucky now lives with Osborne and his wife.

Sanders said he doesn't own any animals.

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