A Key Largo man accused of felony animal cruelty after nearly killing a Labrador retriever puppy in 2010 was found guilty Tuesday following a two-day trial.
The story of Bubba the dog and his former owner Noah Mitchell, 40, captivated the pet-friendly Keys after Mitchell’s October 2010 arrest at his Key Largo home. That’s where, at the hand of Mitchell, the dog suffered injuries consistent with being hit by a car.
His sentencing is set for Nov. 28 at 1:30 p.m. before Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker. Tuesday, he was remanded to the Stock Island jail without bond.
Witnesses say the day Bubba suffered his injuries, Oct. 3, 2010, Mitchell was moving into his new house on Pimlico Lane with the help of two friends who later became witnesses for the prosecution.
After the day’s work was done, the men barbecued steaks and drank beer. When Bubba took a piece of meat off the counter and ran outside, Mitchell reportedly slammed, kicked and punched the dog. Bubba suffered a broken larynx, a collapsed lung and six broken ribs.
Mitchell was found guilty of third-degree felony animal cruelty Tuesday, said Assistant State Attorney Jon Byrne.
“So technically Mitchell could get up to five years in prison, but he has no criminal history,” Byrne said, adding the Florida Legislature uses a score sheet to determine jail time. “So the legislature says if you don’t have a score more than 20 points you can’t be sentenced to prison. I don’t know that the law has caught up with our forward thinking.”
The most jail time Becker could hand Mitchell is up to a year in County Jail, “Which is what we’re going to ask for, followed by four years of probation,” Byrne said. “Obviously it’s up the judge.”
Byrne said Mitchell maintains Bubba’s injuries were an accident. But Key Largo veterinarian Dr. Geoff Bailey and Miami veterinarian Dr. Teresita Carro said Tuesday at the trial the injuries were consistent with the dog being hit by a car or dropped off a balcony.
Bubba recovered and was adopted by an out-of-state owner and is reportedly “doing just fine,” Byrne said.
Mitchell was convicted by a six-member jury in 2012, and then-Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia sentenced him to nine months in county jail, but he never served a day of time after immediately posting a $10,000 appeal bond.
The Third District Court of Appeal reversed the jury’s conviction in July 2014 because the original prosecutor reportedly erred during closing arguments by improperly shifting the burden of proof. Then-Assistant State Attorney Terri Hunnewell told jurors that the burden of proof of Mitchell’s guilt or innocence rested with the defense, not with her office.
Mitchell’s then attorney, public defender Jerome Gilhooley, also successfully argued in a December 2014 brief to the Court of Appeal that Garcia made prejudicial comments to Mitchell regarding his excuse for the pet’s horrific injuries.
That meant that when the case was retried, Garcia could not be the judge.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219