LANCASTER – A Lancaster man seen on cell phone video abusing and body slamming a puppy must stand trial for felony animal cruelty, a judge ruled.
Robert Emmett Martin, 53, attended his probable cause hearing Tuesday morning in an Antelope Valley courtroom. The prosecution called Martin’s actions “aggravated and egregious” while the defense argued that the charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor because Martin has no criminal history and is developmentally disabled.
The felony animal cruelty charge stems from an incident that occurred around 7:30 a.m., Friday, August 8. Martin is accused of repeatedly punching and kicking his six-month-old pit bull mix named Daisy in front of his house on the 500 block of East Lancaster Boulevard. A portion of the abuse was captured on video, which shows Martin swinging the dog in the air by its leash before body slamming the puppy onto the street. Martin also can be heard shouting profanities and racial slurs. (View the video below. Warning: It contains graphic images and offensive language.)
The man who recorded the video on his cell phone – 46-year-old Lindsey Cooks – testified in court Tuesday morning.
Cooks said he and his family were waiting at a bus stop near 5th Street East and Lancaster Boulevard when he noticed Martin walking back and forth with a small black dog.
“He was cussing at the dog, hitting the dog,” Cooks said. Questioned further, Cooks said he saw Martin kick the dog and punch the dog in the head at least three times. Cooks said he warned Martin, and then Martin called him a racial slur.
“I said ‘that’s animal cruelty,’ he said ‘shut up ni**er!’” Cooks testified.
Cooks said he began to record Martin on his cell phone as Martin continued to abuse the dog and hurl racial slurs.
“He picked up the dog and slammed it on its head. I recorded it…He kept saying f-you ni**er, I recorded it,” Cooks said.
Under cross examination, public defender Graham Arthur Bentley tried to chip away at Cooks’ credibility by bringing up his criminal history. Cooks said he was convicted of commercial burglary in 2011 and possession of narcotics in 2010. He said he had served his time in County jail for the crimes and he was not on probation.
The defense attorney also disputed Cooks’ interpretation of the video. Bentley said the video showed Martin “cradling the dog” in his arms, and he said the dog was dropped on its feet and body, not slammed on its head, as Cooks had claimed.
Also testifying at the preliminary hearing was Benjamin Casebolt, one of the Lancaster Sheriff’s deputies who answered the animal abuse call on Aug. 8.
When deputies responded to Martin’s home, the dog was dragging one of its legs and walking with a limp, Casebolt said.
The dog showed “only a slight limp,” which was no longer apparent by the time animal control officers arrived, the defense attorney countered during cross examination, citing Casebolt’s police report.
Casebolt’s police report also indicated that Martin’s speech was slurred and that Martin’s sister told deputies Martin suffered brain damage at birth and had the understanding of a 12-year-old, Bentley said.
The hearing concluded with a viewing of Cooks’ cell phone video before the recording was admitted into evidence.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bernie LaForteza denied the defense’s motion to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor and ruled there was enough evidence to try Robert Martin on one felony count of cruelty to an animal. If convicted as charged, Martin faces a maximum penalty of three years in jail.
Martin was allowed to remain out of custody on his own recognizance. A second arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 10.
**Warning: Video contains graphic images and offensive language**
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