Teen who set caged animal on fire, fed it to dogs won’t face jail time

MIAMI – A 19-year-old Florida man won’t serve jail time in a shocking case of animal cruelty that was caught on video in 2016.

Roberto Hernandez pleaded guilty Friday to a felony count of animal cruelty after prosecutors say he set a caged cat on fire, watched it writhe in pain and then fed the animal to his dogs.

Graphic video shows a teen squirting a flammable liquid over the animal, then tossing matches into the cage until the creature bursts into flames.

According to the Miami Herald, prosecutors wrote in a motion last week that Hernandez then “leisurely grabs a drink and watches the defenseless caged animal burn alive.”

Hernandez “is seen opening the cage, grabbing the burned animal and throwing it to his pit bulls in order to finish killing the animal or to dispose of its remains,” Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Nicole Garcia wrote.

Hernandez’s attorneys argued that the animal was actually a raccoon, and that their client, who was 17 at the time of the incident, thought it was rabid, according to WPLG.

Related: Virginia lawmakers increase animal abuse penalty to felony 

Judge Nushin Sayfie agreed that the animal did appear to be a raccoon, adding, “I don’t think a raccoon should be treated in that manner either.”

Judge Sayfie said during sentencing that, despite the cruelty involved, jail time isn’t normally ordered for a 17-year-old defendant, even when the victims are “children or police officers or the elderly.” She declined to order a psychiatric evaluation, saying that Hernandez had already had one.

“I find it curious that, in this case, the state is seeking jail time when human victims don’t warrant the same approach,” Judge Sayfie said. She sentenced Hernandez to five years probation and 100 hours of community service, according to WPLG.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle issued the following statement about the outcome of the case:

“While we are disappointed with the sentence imposed on Roberto Hernandez, which excluded our recommendation he serve time in jail, it is our sincere hope that this young man who brutally caused the torture and death of a defenseless caged cat, will adhere to any suggested psychological or psychiatric treatment imposed by a duly qualified physician.

As I have said many times, research shows that individuals who commit acts of cruelty against helpless and trusting animals don’t just stop there. Many of these individuals move on to commit violent acts against their fellow humans.”

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