BATTLE CREEK, MICH. - A Battle Creek man was convicted Thursday of animal abuse and likely faces a prison sentence.
A jury of seven men and five women deliberated 2 hours and 45 minutes before finding David Hursley, 55, guilty of a felony of torturing a dog and a misdemeanor of cruelty to animals.
He has eight prior felony convictions and now faces a maximum of 15 years in prison when he is sentenced by Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Lincoln on Oct. 28.
"I think it is incredible," said defense attorney J. Thomas Schaeffer after the verdict was announced about 5 p.m. "It is not consistent with the evidence and is very disappointing. It is incredible to consider putting someone in prison for that. This case should have been dismissed after the preliminary examination. There will be an appeal."
Assistant Calhoun County Prosecutor Dana Porter declined to comment on the verdict.
Hursley was charged after he admitted beating a dog Feb. 9 at his home at 59 Bennett St. He was caring for the dog, which was owned by the property manager of the house where Hursley rented a room at the time.
From the witness stand as the last witness of the three-day trial, Hursley said he agreed to take the dog after its owner was jailed and later deported to Mexico.
He told the jury that the Husky-mix, named Obi, was sometimes aggressive and had bitten him and another man before the night Battle Creek police were called to the house. Other witnesses denied the dog was aggressive.
Hursley said he beat the dog with an aluminum bat and then shot it twice with a pellet gun after it bit his friend, David Hill.
"He kept going at Dave," Hursley said. "I grabbed that bat and kept hitting that dog until he stopped. I knew I hurt him bad, and I went to get the pellet gun and attempted to put him down."
He said he dragged the dog in a blanket to the back porch, but then the police arrived after another resident called 911 reporting the shots fired from the pellet gun.
Police eventually killed the dog, saying it was severely injured and suffering.
One of the other residents of the house, Christopher Mazur, testified Wednesday that both Hursley and Hill hit the dog when it begged for food, and then Hursley vowed to kill it before shooting it with the pellet gun and hitting it with the bat.
But Hursley, in his testimony, said Mazur was not present at the time and that the two men didn't like each other after Hursley accused Mazur of stealing from him.
In her closing argument, Porter said “no one was attacked” as Hursley had contended.
Instead, Porter said Hursley told others in the house, “I don’t like this dog. I am going to kill this dog.”
She said David Hill was not injured and both he and Hursley were intoxicated.
“This was two really drunk people getting into it with this dog,” Porter said. “This was an over-reaction by David Hursley. He did not have just cause to do this.”
Schaeffer said Christopher Mazur is not credible and testified differently than everyone else involved in the case.
“He was unbelievable and had a vendetta,” Schaeffer said. “There was a problem between the two of them. He had his own story and it's not verified by anyone else.”
Schaeffer argued that the law allows a person to kill a dog if it is attacking another person.
“What the defendant did was reasonable,” Schaeffer said. “It is what the law allows; it is what the law requires and what morality requires. We have Mr. Hursley protecting Mr. Hill. He had the right to hurt the dog. He had the duty to hit the dog to protect Mr. Hill."
After the verdict, Judge Lincoln revoked the bond for Hursley and he was taken to the county jail to await his sentence.
The judge said "this was a crime of violence" and cited Hursley's prior criminal record and the probability of a prison sentence.
(2016 © Battle Creek Enquirer)