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A state appeals court in San Francisco today upheld the animal cruelty conviction and four-year prison sentence for an Oakland man who beat his dog with a mop handle and an ax handle. Charles Black was convicted in 2011 by an Alameda County Superior Court jury of two counts of animal cruelty and was sentenced by Judge Allen Hymer to four years in prison. The prosecution was made possible because a neighbor who heard the dog’s cries of pain over a period of months videotaped two incidents of Black beating the dog, a pit bull named Blueberry, on his balcony. The neighbor, pipefitter Vince Faltis, testified that he and his brother, artist Steelee Faltis, decided to videotape the beatings because they found the alleged abuse “appalling.”
In the first incident, on June 30, 2009, Black was seen swinging a mop handle downward and a dog could be heard crying out five times. The tape was indistinct and did not show the handle hitting the dog, but Faltis testified that Black struck the dog forcefully. Black testified in his defense that he pushed or touched Blueberry twice with the handle to discipline the dog for chewing an electrical cord, but denied abusing the animal. The video of the second incident, on Feb. 19, 2010, was of higher quality. Court of Appeal Justice Sandra Margulies wrote in today’s ruling, “This video was of far better quality, unmistakably showing defendant swinging a steel ax over his head and bringing it down on the cowering dog, striking the animal repeatedly. “Defendant shouted angrily at the dog as it squealed in pain,” Margulies wrote. Margulies and Justices James Marchiano and Robert Dondero unanimously upheld the conviction, rejecting Black’s claims that errors in jury selection had deprived him of a fair trial.
The appeals court also turned down Black’s appeal argument that the jurors should have been instructed that they had an option to convict him of a lesser charge of attempted animal abuse. The three-judge panel said there was no evidence that Black attempted but failed to abuse the dog. Vince Faltis was given a $2,500 reward by the Humane Society of the United States and donated $1,000 of that amount to Friends of the Oakland Animal Shelter. Blueberry was taken to the shelter run by the Oakland Police Department and was eventually adopted by another family. A lawyer for Black, who is currently serving his sentence at the California Correctional Institution in Susanville, was not immediately available for comment.
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