A judge on Tuesday imposed the maximum five-year sentence on a Key Largo man accused of brutally beating his dog, duct-taping her mouth shut, stuffing her in a plastic garbage bag and leaving the suffering pit bull terrier on the side of a neighborhood road last summer.
It was the toughest sentence Todd Alexander, 36, could receive for the felony charge of aggravated animal cruelty for which a six-member jury convicted him on Aug. 21.
"Most people can't imagine doing what the jury convicted you of doing," Monroe County Judge Reagan Ptomey told Alexander before handing down the sentence Tuesday morning in the Plantation Key courthouse.
Alexander was given credit for the nearly one year he has been in county jail. Before hearing his sentence, Alexander asked Ptomey for leniency so he could spend more time with his 2-year-old daughter.
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"I'm here to face what I have to face," said Alexander, sporting a new close-cropped hairstyle and absent his previous dreadlocks.
His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Matthew Matteliano, sought a sentence of two and a half years based on state sentencing guidelines.
"Mr. Alexander is a 36-year-old man with a lot of potential if he puts his energy, heart and efforts in the right direction," Matteliano said.
Assistant State Attorney Jonathan Raiche, who prosecuted the case, pointed to Alexander's arrest on a felony marijuana charge in January 2014 and an arrest for felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in September 2013 as reasons why he should serve the maximum.
Alexander was on probation for the marijuana charge, on which he was convicted in July 2014, when the Monroe County Sheriff's Office arrested him on the animal cruelty charge two months later. That could add to his prison sentence, Raiche said after his Aug. 21 conviction. The alleged victim in the assault case did not want to cooperate with the prosecution and the case was dismissed.
Alexander's former girlfriend, Lisa Perry, testified during the trial that Alexander beat the dog, named Diamond, with a socket wrench. The repeated blows from the tool caused a puncture wound on the top of Diamond's head. Veterinarians with the Human Animal Care Coalition, the animal shelter that treated Diamond when she was found on July 22, 2014, thought someone shot the dog in the head.
Daniel Rossler of Key Largo found Diamond when he noticed something moving inside a black trash bag lying on the side of Gun Club Road in Key Largo, around mile marker 101.5 off U.S. 1. He freed Diamond and cared for her while waiting for shelter staff to pick her up.
Marsha Garrettson, the head of the Humane Animal Care Coalition, which serves as the county's animal control department in the Upper Keys, said the head wound was so severe it looked like a bullet entered the top of Diamond's skull and traveled to damage her nasal passage. The duct tape was fashioned around the dog's neck in a way that would eventually asphyxiate her.
Despite the beating she received, Diamond was friendly and playful with people, both Rossler and Garrettson said. But she began bleeding from her nose and mouth the day after Rossler found her. Garrettson's veterinarian determined euthanizing her was the most humane course of action.
Alexander pleaded not guilty. His main defense was that Diamond ran away in June 2014 and that he never saw the dog again.
Matteliano argued during the trial that there was no way Sheriff's Office detectives could have known for sure that Diamond was the same dog that belonged to Alexander. He also said the criminal investigation into the dog's beating was opened only after a story about the abused animal being found appeared on KeysInfoNet.com on Aug. 22, 2014.
In addition to the prison time, Ptomey fined Alexander $5,000. He must also pay $670 in court costs, $450 in prosecution costs and $1,900 to the Sheriff's Office.