Monday, June 28, 2010

Ramona Man Sent to Trial for Raising Fighting Pit Bulls

From San Diego 6

A Ramona man accused of raising pit bulls for dog fights will stand trial Aug. 30, a judge in El Cajon ruled Monday.

Raul Leyva, 35, is charged with 10 felony counts of owning, possessing, keeping or training dogs with the intent to engage in a dog-fight exhibition with another dog, said Deputy District Attorney Karra Reedy.

The defendant is also charged with a misdemeanor count of operating an unlicensed kennel.

Leyva -- who has a robbery conviction on his record -- faces a maximum 12 years in prison if convicted, the prosecutor said.

The county Department of Animal Services raided Leyva's home in April 2008, seizing a 16-by-16-foot piece of carpeting stained with dog blood, authorities said.

Eric Sakach of the Humane Society of the United States testified at an earlier hearing that carpeting is used as a floor in dog fighting to give the dogs traction while they're fighting.

Authorities also allegedly found a document during the search of Leyva's home that shows a training regimen for dogs for being prepared for fights, vitamins and injuries to 10 pit bulls.

All of the dogs were seized and later euthanized.

Defense witness Richard Stratton, an author of four books about pit bulls, previously testified that none of the evidence against Leyva on its own showed that he was raising the dogs for fighting.

Update July 7, 2010 11:19am - The following article is by Neal Putnam, Ramona Sentinel:

Dog fighting case delayed

The 2008 dog fighting case against a Ramona resident was delayed June 28 and trial is set for Aug. 30 in El Cajon Superior Court.
   Raul A. Leyva, 35, disputes the charges filed against him in 2008 and has waived his right to have a speedy trial. He is accused of one felony count that alleges he possessed a dog with the intent to use that dog for dog fighting and with a misdemeanor count of failure to obtain a kennel license.
   Leyva’s attorney, Vikas Bajaj, said in an earlier interview the dog in question was one that Leyva did not own, but was keeping temporarily for someone else.Animal control officers from San Diego County raided Leyva’s home on Boundary Avenue on May 14, 2008, and seized 10 pit bull terriers.
   Leyva’s attorney said his client has not engaged in dog fighting and Leyva was a dog lover.
   The prosecution had filed other misdemeanor counts of failure to obtain a dog license, vaccination and mistreatment of animals, but those counts were dismissed in a preliminary hearing in 2009.
   Leyva has pleaded not guilty and remains free on his own recognizance.

Update September 29, 2010 7:01pm - The following article is from Mercury News:

SD man pleads guilty to training dogs for fighting

A San Diego County man has pleaded guilty to five counts of owning and training dogs for fighting. Raul Leyva's guilty plea Wednesday came as his trial on dog fighting charges was set to begin in San Diego County Superior Court.
Animal control officers raided Leyva's property in rural Ramona two years ago, seizing ten pit bulls, some of which had scars similar to those seen on fighting dogs.
Court documents show that officers also seized a treadmill, bloody carpeting, pictures of dogfights and a manual on how to train dogs for fighting.
The Los Angeles Timers reports four of the ten dogs have found new owners. Six were euthanized.
Leyva faces up to 11 years in prison when he's sentenced in November. 



Update October 7, 2010 10:44am - The following article is by Neal Putnam, Ramona Sentinel:


Ramonan agrees to plea agreement to resolve ‘08 dog fighting charges 

A Ramona man whose dog kennel was busted in 2008 pleaded guilty to five felony counts of possessing dogs with the intent of using them in dog fighting.

Raul A Leyva, 35, who had disputed the charges, reached a plea agreement with a judge in which he will likely be placed on probation. Any custody imposed would be in a work furlough facility, said his attorney Vikas Bajaj.

Bajaj had been preparing for trial, and said “we would have been victorious.” But he said his client has two children and “he couldn’t take a risk of going to prison,” adding that could have occurred if he was convicted in a trial.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 23 before El Cajon Superior Court Judge Allan Preckel, who dismissed other misdemeanor charges. The maximum sentence is 11 years and two months in state prison, said Deputy District Attorney Karra Reedy. Probation has not been ruled out.

“The most certainty is work furlough,” said Bajaj.

Leyva has a construction job that qualifies him to be allowed to live in a work furlough facility on probation. He would be free to go to work, but the facility would likely be locked at night and on weekends.

Animal control officers from San Diego County raided Leyva’s home on Boundary Avenue on May 14, 2008, and seized 10 pit bull terriers.

The dogs were found in separate kennel areas, separated from each other.
Dog fighting was suspected because about four or five dogs had scars on their faces, necks, and front legs, official reported.

The dogs were all in good condition and animal neglect was not alleged against Leyva. Someone called the county Animal Services department and said the dogs were used for fighting, which prompted the raid. Treadmills were found in the area.

An animal control officer testified in the 2009 preliminary hearing that the dogs were friendly to people, but were aggressive with other dogs.
Leyva’s attorney said some of the dogs belonged to other people, and described Leyva as “a dog lover.”

A defense witness testified in 2009 that he found no signs of dog fighting and said the presence of treadmills is not evidence of dog fighting since “a lot of people get treadmills.”

The prosecution had filed other misdemeanor counts of failure to obtain a dog license, and vaccination, but those counts were dismissed in a preliminary hearing in 2009.

Leyva remains free on his own recognizance.

Update November 23, 2010 11:25am - The following article is from Mercury News:

SoCal man to be sentenced for raising fight dogs

A San Diego County man is facing up to 11 years in prison for raising fighting pit bulls at his home. Raul Leyva is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday in El Cajon. He pleaded guilty to five charges of owning, training or possessing animals for dog-fighting purposes.
Animal control officers raided Leyva's property in rural Ramona two years ago, seizing 10 pit bulls. Some had scars similar to those seen on fighting dogs. Six of the dogs were later euthanized.
Court documents show that officers also seized a treadmill, bloody carpeting, pictures of fights and a manual on how to train dogs for fighting.


Update December 3, 2010 9:35am - The following article is from Mercury News:

San Diego pit bull owner sentenced for raising fight dogs

A San Diego County man has been sentenced to a year in jail for keeping and training pit bulls for dog fights.
The San Diego Union-Tribune says Raul Leyva was sentenced Thursday in El Cajon. He pleaded guilty last month to five felony counts. His attorney says Leyva is a dog lover and pleaded to avoid a possible 11-year sentence had the case gone to trial.
The 35-year-old Ramona man was charged after animal control officer raided his rural property two years ago and seized 10 pit bulls.
Prosecutors say some had fighting scars. Six were euthanized.
Leyva will be allowed to serve his time in a work-furlough program but the judge said Leyva cannot own or be around dogs during his probation.
 

Related articles:
Court sentences man to work forlough in dog fighting case - Ramona Sentinel

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