Duanying Chen, arrested last year for strangling his girlfriend during an argument and later torturing their puppy to the point it had to be euthanized, was sentenced Tuesday to one year in County Jail and five years of probation. Judge Brian Hill handed down the sentence over the objections of prosecutors, animal control officers, and area residents who attended the hearing and asked for a much harsher punishment.
“I can only beg for your mercy,” Chen said aloud in court. “I let my emotions get the best of me.” Chen’s mother had previously pleaded with Hill to show her son leniency, arguing he was unaware of U.S. animal treatment laws and unable to cope with difficult situations because of his sheltered upbringing.
Chen pleaded guilty in May to felony charges of cruelty to an animal, personal use of a deadly weapon, dissuading a witness, and violating a court order. He faced a maximum of seven years and six months in prison. In addition to his jail and probation terms, he must also attend a batterers intervention program, undergo mental health treatment, pay $24,355.70 in restitution, and not own an animal for 10 years.
The Doberman Pinscher puppy, named Davey, suffered burns over 80 percent of its body, according to authorities, who also said x-ray evidence pointed to a “series of injuries that occurred over time.” Prosecuting attorney Kevin Weichbrod presented a gruesome slideshow for the court and warned the public beforehand of its horrific content. In addition to being obviously malnourished, the images showed Davey with broken teeth and ribs and whiskers that had been singed by a grill lighter, Chen’s weapon of choice. A video showed Davey’s legs unable to support his frail body. After he was arrested, Chen attempted to have his girlfriend fabricate and destroy evidence in their apartment.
Weichbrod described a “link” between people who commit violent crimes against animals and those who commit crimes against children, spouses, and the elderly. He said 70 percent of people who hurt animals also harm people. Weichbrod also summoned several witnesses who provided their emotional accounts of the ordeal. City Animal Control Officer Stephanie Burgard said it was her “hardest case” and asked that Hill deliver the longest sentence possible to Chen. The bailiffs were cued toward the anxious crowd as the judge neared his decision, and Hill reminded everyone that silence was mandatory.
A handful of letters were also presented to Hill. They were generated by the public, and, much like the witnesses, called for the judge to hand down the harshest sentence the law allowed. Although Hill conceded to Weichbrod that the public’s emotions were powerful and evident, he made clear that the reactions would not influence the court and said Chen was not “beyond redemption.”
In a prepared statement, District Attorney Dudley commended Weichbrod for his “tenacious and thoughtful prosecution,” adding, “This was an outrageous act of a coward who brutalized a vulnerable woman and a helpless animal. I can only hope his time in jail will help him understand just how despicable his criminal actions were.”