A Berkeley County Circuit Court judge Thursday ordered a man charged with killing a caged feral kitten by shooting it multiple times with a pellet gun to serve a week in jail, pay $500 in fines and complete 250 hours of community service.
Justin Michael Beall, 24, of Pasadena, Md., who pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty, is expected to report to Eastern Regional Jail next Friday, according to sentencing terms from 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder.
Yoder, who had full discretion in sentencing Beall, suspended all but one week of a six-month jail sentence and ordered that Beall be placed on probation for two years.
A five-year ban on Beall’s possession of animals as required by state law in such animal cruelty convictions also was imposed.
Yoder agreed with Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Timothy D. Helman’s arguments Thursday that the community feels “strongly” about the humane treatment of animals, but didn’t grant Helman’s request to impose a 30-day jail sentence.
Helman also had asked the judge to order completion of 400 hours of community service and five years of probation.
Beall, who was indicted on a felony count of animal cruelty, was allowed to enter a guilty plea to the lesser offense as part of an plea agreement reached in February between the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and defense attorney B. Craig Manford.
Helman told the court Thursday that he could have proved that Beall shot the cat at least three times in the head in May 2011 while it was being kept in a box-style trap beneath a mobile home along Conservation Drive in Hedgesville, W.Va.
Before he was sentenced, Beall told the court he was “extremely sorry” for what he did and said nothing like it would happen again.
Manford, who said his client is remorseful, told the court that Beall was visiting his grandmother when the incident happened.
Manford also noted that feral cats had become a nuisance in the community and that it was common practice for some residents to humanely kill the animals, which the attorney said were disposed of in a nearby field.
However, Helman noted that one resident was capturing the cats so they could be adopted through the humane society, and that Beall smiled before he pointed the gun into the cage and shot the cat multiple times.