Roberto Hernandez was convicted of dousing a cat in combustible liquid and burning it to death, then feeding the animal's corpse to dogs. He will get off without any time in jail.
The 19-year-old was found guilty this week of an animal cruelty charge for the 2016 incident, in which he killed the cat outside his home in Florida. Police said the entire disturbing incident was caught on video, showing Hernandez torturing and killing the cat as it was trapped in a cage. As WSVN reported, Hernandez watched the animal burn alive.
But despite the gruesome nature of the killing and the fact that police had indisputable evidence of Hernandez killing the cat, a judge ordered him to just 100 hours of community service and five years of probation. As the Miami Herald reported, Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie said she believed Hernandez when he claimed that he believed the animal was a rabid raccoon that was reportedly attacking farm animals.
"I don't think a raccoon should be treated in that manner," Sayfie said, adding: "I don't think jail time is appropriate."
Sayfie ultimately decided to go against the recommendation from prosecutors that Hernandez spend 364 days in jail for the cat's killing, instead choosing probation and community service to keep him out of jail. She noted his young age and the fact that such sentences are normally not given to first-time offenders.
The light sentence drew pushback in the community from animal rights activists who said that those convicted of animal cruelty often get off with light sentences.
"It seems as though unless we, the animal advocates, go to court, demand these penalties, people are continuously getting just a slap on the wrist," activist Regina Vlasek told WSVN. "I hope that the judges are not re-elected because they obviously are ignorant, and they don't see the connection between abusing an animal and to go on to abuse people."The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office also released a statement about Roberto Hernandez's sentence, saying they hoped he will adhere to the suggested psychological and psychiatric treatment. The office also seemed to push back against assertions that it was not tough enough on those convicted of animal cruelty.
"Animal abuse cases have been a long-standing priority of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office," the statement read. "We will continue to pursue the prosecution of all animal abuse cases as far as the evidence and Florida Law will allow."