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MASON, Mich. (Kevin Grasha, Lansing State Journal) — A witness testified that the pit bull was hung by a "noose" from the roof of a house, with Nicholas Conley holding the rope or chain. His brother, Benjamin, was nearby, helping.

The dog was suspended for several minutes, fighting to breathe, according to testimony. It also had been stabbed multiple times.

Afterward, the brothers placed the dog in a shallow hole, attached by a short chain to a cinder block, so it couldn't lift its head.

A jury on Thursday found that Nicholas Conley, 31, and Benjamin Conley, 34, tortured the dog.

After about three hours of deliberations, the Lansing men were found guilty of felony charges of torturing an animal and conspiracy to torture an animal.

They face up to four years in prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 24 in Ingham County Circuit Court before Judge William Collette. The trial began Monday

Attorneys for the Conleys say they acted in self-defense after the dog — named Killer — became aggressive. The night of Sept. 5, 2013, it attacked Benjamin Conley's 13-year-old son, causing a severe laceration to the teen's head.

The next day, an Ingham County Animal Control deputy went to their Lansing home and found the dog in the shallow hole. Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Dixon said Thursday during closing arguments. The Conleys' mother, who owned the dog, had called Animal Control.

The dog, which had multiple stab wounds to the sides of its abdomen and one on its head, was lethargic, panting heavily and bleeding.

Dixon said the Conleys tortured the dog as revenge for biting Benjamin Conley's son.

"We are here," she told jurors, because we live in a civil society where there are proper ways to deal with problems."

Nicholas Conley's attorney Adam Rumschlag said he was disappointed in the verdicts.

"My client and his brother still maintain that they did not intentionally torture this dog, as was portrayed by the state," Rumschlag said, adding that the Conleys will decide whether to appeal.

Benjamin Conley's attorney, Kim Savage, could not immediately be reached for comment.

In closing arguments, Rumschlag said his client was on the roof trying to help his brother control a dog that was repeatedly lunging.

The stab wounds to the dog happened as the Conleys acted in self-defense, he said. If they wanted to torture the dog, he added, they could have slashed the dog down its middle, gouged its eyes out or "cut him into little pieces."

"None of that happened here," he said.

Kevin Grasha is a reporter for the Lansing State Journal

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