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Plea deal made in dead dog case

Published: Fri, December 5, 2008 @ 12:09 a.m.
  Steve Croley

Steve Croley in Youngstown Municipal Court

Steve Croley in Youngstown Municipal Court


Steve Croley

By Patricia Meade

The prosecutor said animal cruelty is a felony in 45 states, but not Ohio.

YOUNGSTOWN — A plea agreement recommends four months in jail for the man who operated High Caliber K-9, where seven dead and 12 starving dogs were found.

Steve Croley, 38, of Struthers-Coitsville Road, Lowellville, pleaded no contest Thursday afternoon in municipal court to four counts of animal cruelty. The case had been set for a Dec. 18 trial. Two housing violations related to the condition of the High Caliber K-9 property at 1516 Coitsville-Hubbard Road were dismissed.

City Prosecutor Jay Macejko said the plea agreement calls for 30 days in jail on each count; restitution of $1,646 to Animal Charity, a humane agency on South Avenue that rescued dogs from the property; and a provision that Croley not own or harbor animals during whatever probation period — one to five years — that may be imposed.

Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. told Croley, who is represented by Youngstown attorney Heidi Hanni, that the potential penalty for each count is up to 90 days in jail and $750 fine. Croley said, “Yes, your honor,” to acknowledge he understood his plea meant he waived his right to a trial.

The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set sentencing for Jan. 22.

“The court recognizes there were losses in this matter,” Judge Douglas said. A restitution amount that includes estimates from the four dogs’ owners will be included, he said.

Restitution applies only to the four dead dogs for which Croley was charged, Macejko said. Letters were sent to the owners, one in California, one in Germany and two in Youngstown.

Croley was originally arrested on 19 counts of animal cruelty but only four were filed. Macejko determined that the High Caliber K-9 property was illegally entered by representatives of Animal Charity, who used bolt cutters to cut a fence. The four counts relate to dogs seen before the fence was breached. The prosecutor has said had he been called, he would have obtained a search warrant.

When taken into custody Oct. 22, Croley told a representative of Animal Charity that he could not afford to feed the animals. Since the arrest, dog owners have come forward to say they paid Croley in advance.

Macejko said Thursday that Judge Douglas could sentence Croley to more time than worked out in the plea agreement. If that happens, Croley could withdraw his plea and the case could proceed to trial, the prosecutor said.

Macejko said he is working with Mayor Jay Williams and will send letters to encourage state legislators to elevate animal cruelty, now a misdemeanor, to a felony. He said the crime is a felony in 45 states.



1paulydel(1538 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

I'd say OHIO needs to update their animal cruelty laws. Anyone who treats life this way should be tried as a felon. This should include making sure that the people that are in law enforcement have or are given the authority they need to take care of business. This was a goat rope to begin with because this guy is getting off easy for what he did.

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2luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Isn't Cleveland in OHIO?

Cleveland man gets 180 days in jail for kicking puppy
by Donna J. Miller/Plain Dealer Reporter
Friday October 31, 2008, 9:13 AM

CLEVELAND -- A 35-year-old Cleveland man was sentenced to 180 days in jail and fined $1,000 for kicking his girlfriend's puppy.

Municipal Judge Charles Patton imposed the maximum sentence for animal cruelty after viewing a video the girlfriend secretly made when she suspected Michael Brooks was abusing the puppy.

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3momofsrl701(4 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

So why did this happen yesterday rather than on December 18? Is it because he agreed to a plea? That's a load of crap! I didn't even know about this happening until late yesterday ... several hours after the fact. Why wasn't there anything about it in here before that???

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4CapRon(1 comment)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm disappointed that the prosecuter would accept a plea bargain - unless it's the old story of "it's only a dog so lets get it off my desk". I hope not. This case is too severe to be brushed aside. This man should pay dearly for inflicting such a death and near death on these dogs. He was paid plenty of money for food so there was no excuse other than his own intentional criminal neglect.

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5luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

CapRon i couldn't agree more, I am so very disappointed, all of us at work that are following this are outraged that the Prosecutor would accept such a plea bargain. This case is extremely severe, to own a boarding/training business, collect and be paid good money from customers and starve 7 dogs to death and starve 12 others. The photos are haunting, those poor dogs, their poor owners. There were many options this man could have done and he chose to do nothing. There is no excuse other than his own personal greed and intentional criminal neglect. Yes this man should pay dearly, 4 months in jail for what he has intentionally done - what a joke.

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6animallover(86 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

This is a horrible disgrace. Those poor dogs suffered and because of a lame prosecutor they are trying to push this case aside.

Animal cruelty is one of the early markers of psychopathic personality disorder (also known as sociopathic personality disorder). Most serial killers and many other violent criminals have a history of animal abuse, with animals often being used as a “rehearsal” for later crimes against people.

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7pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

This is another prime example of why these criminal acts continue to happen. What is wrong with a person serving the maximum sentence for the crimes they commit? The prosecutor didnt need to plea this out, this guy is quilty as sin. Of course everyone should understand that animal cruelty should be a felony. But then you think that the prosecutor is only seeking 30 days for each count when the max could be 90. Mr. prosecutor why would you seek to have animal cruelty be changed to a felony when you dont even ask for the maximum sentence on a misdemeanor charge. That sounds very contradictory to me. No amount of time will be enough for those that have lost their family member. At least give him the maximum instead of the minimum.

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8pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Voice...alot of unanswered question here isn't there? Probably he wanted a plea deal so he wouldn't have to answer these questions.

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9animallover(86 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Voice, Thats a good point I wonder what happened to the mysterious financial statement? I for one do not want to pay for this THING. THING does not even deserve for me to pay for him to sit in a jail cell. Leave him locked in his kennel. That would be justice.

How do we find out about this financial statement?

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10Abbysmom(5 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

This guy should have gotten life!!!!

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11animallover(86 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

I also will contact the judge's office. They tried to hide the pretrial from everyone. Perhaps we should check the docket daily and make sure they do not change the dates again.

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12animallover(86 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

That is a possibility. This whole thing is a sham and they need to be reported for misconduct.

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13pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

What exactly is the pre-sentence investigation going to include...possibly a financial statement. Will the investigation be made public?

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14luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Good question - I'm sure the criminals know the answer, I sure don't but it's definitely not fair for taxpayers to pay for his legal defense.

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15Diatbda(1 comment)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

1 month in jail for 4 of the 7 dogs that were found starved to death and rotting in their runs.

Michael Vick at least buried his victims.

What a discusting piece of scum.

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16animallover(86 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

I am sure the criminals know, they know the law better than lawyers and judges.

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17pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

This is a completely disgusting case all the way around. None of the dogs are getting any real justice at all. What will this guy do next? He knows now there wont be any real penalty for any of his actions.

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18janna(11 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

Animallover, isn't that always the way?! that the criminals know more about how to play the system than any law-abiding person?!
Pamewame, this is a good point. There should have been an example set, at least...now that this man and most of Ohio know that there is the prospect of just 4 months in a nice warm jail with TV, good food and all at the taxpayers' expense, don't you bet that this will give carte blanche to anyone else who decides it's a good scam to charge hundreds of dollars to people for Training their dogs, and then pocket the proceeds??!!
Did anyone ever find out what happened to the money paid to him, by the way?!

It seems to me that there are many people in high places who are determined to sweep this case under the carpet!!
WHY would they do this?
There is something fishy here.
How else can it be explained away that they are so blinded to the FACTS that dogs lay dead and others were emaciated?
Someone on another thread said that Parvo can kill rapidly. Yes it can...but not so rapidly that its victims are skin and bone and lie for days and weeks rotting, whilst the person on the premises walks past the stench.

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19pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

Janna..I imagine we will never know what happened to the money he was paid to train the dogs. Unless the financial statement is revealed in the pre-sentence investigation, we may never know anything about it.

All of you good citizens of Ohio need to flood your state representatives offices with letters demanding your laws be changed so that animal cruelty is a felony. Enough is Enough. This THING should be the very last one to get away with something like this. We already know the justice system isnt going to do anymore to this guy because they want it over and done with so they dont have to deal with all of this anymore.

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20pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

You might be suprised, but your state rep's and senators do want to hear from their constituents. I have contacted mine several times and they always respond in a timely manner.

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21janna(11 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

Do they carry weight in a situation such as this, even if it is in a different state?
How do i find out the right names and addresses to write to?

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22pamewame(48 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

There is probably nothing they can do in this situation. But they are the ones that can make stronger laws. You can google whatever state you want....such as Ohio state representatives and senators. It gives a complete listing with addresses and phone numbers.

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23janna(11 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

Thank you, pamewame.
Voice, that's an excellent idea.
Anything at all, that might just make those in power sit up and realise how their seemingly righteous actions affect their citizens, is worth a try.
These poor dogs must not have died in vain. We as human beings owe it to their memory to seek justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

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24Scope9137(7 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

oh my gosh, he can not have animals for as long as his probationary term is, that's messed up!!!!! I hate this guy

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