FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP/WDTV) — A West Virginia man has been sentenced to one to five years' home confinement for abandoning his Yorkie.
News outlets report 36-year-old Justin Ryan Lancianese was sentenced this month after pleading guilty this summer to a felony animal cruelty charge.
A criminal complaint says Lancianese trapped his dog named Jojo in a cooler bag that held a copy of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" and a CVS card, and then tossed the bag near a power plant last year. Chester Bradley testified that his own dog was the one who discovered the dog now named Winston Johnson, who's since been adopted.
Lancianese's defense argued Lancianese was suffering mental and drug abuse issues at the time. Lancianese told the court that he's ashamed and is now at a recovery house.
It was an emotional afternoon in a Marion County courtroom Friday as Justin Lancianese of Rivesville was sentenced to one to five years of home confinement.
Lancainese pleaded guilty to one felony count of animal abuse in July.
The dog, now known as Winston by his adopted family, was found blind in a cooler that was zipped shut and weighed down by a book in 2018.
His adopted parents have since taken on the role of animal activists.
As he shed tears during his testimony, Lancainese told the court his goal at the time of the incident was to actually save the dog he called Jojo.
A psychologist testified at Lancainese's sentencing hearing said that his actions that day were a result of ongoing substance abuse and PTSD from being the victim of a domestic violence incident.
Lancianese told the court that he was hallucinating and hearing voices that day. He claimed he wanted to burn down his apartment building and kill himself. So he dropped off the dog in that cooler, hoping someone would find him.
But, the man who found Winston told the court that he wouldn’t have found the dog amongst the weeds on the side of a service road if it weren’t for his own dog noticing the bag.
Lancianese pleaded to the court to avoid jail time, citing ongoing rehab efforts and an improving mental state. He told the packed crowd of animal advocates that he misses his cuddle buddy and takes responsibility for his actions
Lancianese said he apologizes to every animal lover in the world and added he can’t take back what he did. He told the crowd he wasn't asking for sympathy.
Prosecutors called his statements a farce, asking for jail time, and if he wouldn’t go behind bars, wanted home confinement.
The judge questioned the credibility of his statement saying there were contradictions with what he had previously said.
Audible gasps from the packed crowd when prosecutors also recommended community service at the animal shelter.
The judge instead sentenced him to 200 hours of community service at his probation officer's discretion to find suitable volunteer opportunities.
Judge Patrick Wilson recognized the crowd expressing his support for the public interest in this case. However, he said he wished there was as much community support for children who are victims of sexual abuse cases
Wilson also believed that Lancianese would not have committed the offense if he wasn't under the influence.
Still, Wilson said the drug use does not excuse his actions and for that reason denied the defense's request for probation.