Sunday, June 27, 2010

Man to be sentenced in Erie County Court in dog attack on toddler

By Lisa Thompson, Go Erie

Matthew Havern, the 26-year-old man who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a dog attack on his 3-year-old niece, is scheduled to be sentenced this morning in Erie County Court. The charges carry a maximum possible sentence of up to seven years in prison and a $50,600 fine.

The dog, a pit bull mix named Graham, attacked Alorah Havern in September.

It had attacked another toddler in 2006, causing similar injuries.

It was euthanized after the most recent attack.

Update June 30, 2010 11:27am - The following article is by Lisa Thompson, Go Erie:

Man sentenced to prison in Erie County Court in dog attack on toddler

Matthew Havern's dog had attacked a child before. 
After that attack, which severely wounded a toddler, he kept the dog, a pit bull mix named "Graham," in the basement, but did not vaccinate him or register him as a dangerous dog as required by law.

He said Monday in Erie County Court that the dog's second attack on a child -- Havern's 3-year-old niece -- made him realize the responsibility of being a pet owner.

"I deeply regret the decisions I have made," he told Judge Shad Connelly.

Havern was sentenced Monday to serve one to 12 months in the Erie County Prison for failing to control his dog. He must also serve two years of probation, pay court costs, $550 in fines and perform 100 hours of community service, Connelly said.

The sentence was in the standard range of sentencing guidelines.

Connelly said Havern had shown reckless conduct with regard to his animal for years.

The sentence came after Havern pleaded guilty in May in Erie County Court to charges stemming from a dog attack that left his niece, Alorah Havern, with severe injuries.

The dog attacked Alorah Havern on Sept. 16 at the Millcreek Township residence Matthew Havern shared with his mother, Debbie Havern.

Debbie Havern, Alorah Havern's grandmother, was baby-sitting the child at the time.

The girl suffered a fractured skull and required more than 300 stitches to close her wounds, her mother, Julie Havern, has said. Alorah Havern also lost many teeth and had numerous bones in her face shattered.

The dog had inflicted similar injuries to the 4-year-old daughter of Matthew Havern's girlfriend in November 2006 in Wesleyville.

After that attack, Matthew Havern was charged with failure to confine his dog and owning a dog that caused serious injury or death. He pleaded guilty to both charges. He was required to register the dog and properly contain it, but failed to do so. Matthew Havern, instead, falsely told a state dog warden that he no longer owned the dog.

The dog was euthanized after the most recent attack.

Matthew Havern, 26, pleaded guilty to charges of dog attack causing serious injury, failing to register a dangerous dog, failure to maintain liability insurance for a dangerous dog, and failure to obtain a rabies shot and a license for his dog.

In exchange for his plea, the Erie County District Attorney's Office dropped charges of reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor dog attack count.

Matthew Havern's lawyer, David Ridge, asked for a probation sentence. He said the grading of the offense and sentencing guidelines had already taken into account the facts of the case -- that the dog had attacked before.

Matthew Havern took responsibility for the crime, he said.

District Attorney Jack Daneri asked for a sentence in the aggravated range.

He said had Alorah Havern not been maimed, Matthew Havern likely would still be disobeying the law with regard to his pet.

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