A Miami-Dade judge sentenced 19-year-old Roberto Hernandez Friday to five years of probation and 100 hours of community service for brutally setting fire to what prosecutors say was a captive cat on his family’s farm two years ago.
Prosecutors wanted Hernandez to serve at least 364 days in jail in addition to probation and community service, but Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie said she believed the defendant’s claim that the animal was actually a rabid raccoon who had been attacking the local farm animals. Hernandez’s defense lawyer claims the teen was from a troubled family with no criminal history.
“I don’t think jail time is appropriate,” said Sayfie at the sentence hearing, though she did find the act to be a mistreatment against the “raccoon.” “I find it curious that the state is seeking jail time when actual human victims don’t warrant the same approach.”
Hernandez was 17 years old when he doused a caged animal in flammable liquid and set it on fire with a match. He then proceeded to feed the creature to his pit bulls. This was all caught on video on July 16, 2016 by the surveillance camera belonging to tenants living on the Hernandez property. Hernandez, however, was not arrested until the following year.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle released in a statement that these sorts of cases should be looked at with great caution, pointing to research that supports that animal cruelty can be a gateway to people committing “violent acts against their fellow humans,” which is why they sought jail time.
“While we are disappointed with the sentence imposed on Roberto Hernandez, which excluded our recommendation he serve time in jail, it is our sincere hope that this young man who brutally caused the torture and death of a defenseless caged cat, will adhere to any suggested psychological or psychiatric treatment imposed by a duly qualified physician,” said Rundle.
Hernandez will indeed attend a psychological evaluation in one year as ordered, and will also have to report to a judge every month. Judge Syafie granted the teen a “withhold of adjudication” as well, meaning he will not be filed as a convicted felon.
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