Anything less than loss of liberty would send the wrong message, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn declared on Wednesday when she sentenced a man to home confinement for cruelty to animals.
She had previously found Marcel Deardon Archer guilty after a trial in which Animal Welfare Officer Margaret Baldino testified that she found dead rabbits, chickens and pigeons and a dog at a farm the defendant had leased in North Side. Her visit took place on Aug. 4, 2010 after she received an anonymous tip from the public.
A sentence that did not include custody would send the wrong message to the public, the magistrate said. The sentence she imposed includes a period of confinement for 22 hours per day.
The magistrate referred to recent reports of dog poisonings, interference with horses and mistreatment of iguanas. Those were single offenses, she noted, but Archer’s offending involved numerous animals over an extended period.
The animals had been left without food or water and had been exposed to daytime temperatures averaging 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
Archer had pleaded not guilty, saying he believed that a farm hand he had previously employed was still looking after the animals. However, the farm hand’s evidence was that he had told Archer he was leaving the island and would not be able to continue feeding the animals.
The Animals Law provides for a penalty of a fine up to $4,000 and imprisonment up to 12 months.
The magistrate said the offense warranted a sentence of eight months after trial for a first offender. Then she considered the mitigating factors. Archer was a mature man of exemplary character who was now unable to work because of health issues. The case had caused him embarrassment and stress. Further, because of his health issues, there had been a delay with his trial on charges dating back to 2010.
Giving Archer credit for his personal circumstances and the delay since the offenses, she applied a four-month deduction, leading to a sentence of four months’ imprisonment.
The magistrate noted that the Alternative Sentencing Law allows for confinement to take place by way of a curfew order – an order that the convicted person remain at a specified place for a specified time.
In Archer’s case, she ordered that he spend the first eight weeks of his sentence confined to an address his attorney would provide. During those eight weeks, he must remain at his home 24 hours per day, except for such errands as are necessary to his health, which he may undertake between 12 noon and 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, he will be allowed to leave home between 8 a.m. and 12 noon for attending church.
“These are the only periods you are allowed out of the house,” she emphasized.
After the first eight weeks, his confinement will be eased with a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Meanwhile, if Archer has any medical appointments, he must inform his probation officer so that she can tell the police. If any adjustment of the curfew order is needed, an application will have to be made to the court. Any breach could find him back before the court, which could lead to incarceration at Northward Prison, the magistrate said.
Crown counsel Eleanor Fargin had asked for an order preventing the defendant from keeping any animals. The magistrate said he would be prohibited from owning any animals for two years.
Defense attorney Alice Carver had asked that no conviction be recorded. She submitted numerous references, which referred to Archer’s community service, which included running errands for people who were unable to go themselves because of their physical condition, taking them to appointments or shopping. He had previously assisted the Department of Agriculture with animal welfare. Neighbors described him as kind and caring, with a passionate commitment to the less fortunate.
The magistrate concluded that a conviction must be recorded and Ms. Carver gave notice that there would be an appeal against conviction.
Ms. Baldino’s evidence during trial included photographs of her findings.
The dead dog had been chained to a tree with no sign of food or water nearby. None of the cages in which the animals were confined had any food or water. A container of food was on the premises but the animals would not have had access to it.
The magistrate said the animals had undergone unimaginable distress from starvation, dehydration and heat. Without water, they would have died within days. With water and without food, they would have died within two weeks.