Crime - Sacto 911

Appellate court upholds Sacramento sentence in dog cruelty case

A state appellate court on Friday upheld a Sacramento judge who sentenced a homeless man to 10 years in prison and ordered him to register as a sex offender after finding that he committed animal cruelty in the strangulation of a Chihuahua.

A three-justice panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento ruled that Robert Deshields “committed a violent offense ... for sexual purposes (as found by the trial court),” and such crimes “are among the types of offenses listed” in California’s registration law.

Deshields, 58, was homeless and used a wheelchair but needed a residence to qualify for assistance and, from November 2010 through March 2011, he paid to live in a family’s garage.

During his stay, the family acquired a 6-pound male Chihuahua named Shadow, who went missing on March 27, 2011. Suspicious of Deshields, a member of the family told him a day later that (Deshields) would be missing if the dog was not found by the following day.

Early the next morning, Deshields turned up with Shadow. He said he found the dog behind a recliner in the garage. Shadow’s eyes were bloodshot and he was limp. He moved a bit on the floor, dragging his hind legs. The dog survived the attack.

The family summoned police and Deshields was arrested. Three veterinarians who examined the dog all reached the same conclusion: “Shadow’s bloodshot eyes were the result of manual strangulation ... he had been choked unconscious ...”

A jury found Deshields guilty of animal cruelty but deadlocked on a charge of sexual assault of a dog, and Sacramento Superior Court Judge Thadd Blizzard declared a mistrial as to that charge. The judge found that Deshields had prior convictions dating back almost 25 years for drug offenses, receiving stolen property, evading police and auto theft.

Blizzard sentenced Deshields on Dec. 23, 2011, to the upper term of three years on the animal cruelty conviction and seven consecutive one-year terms for each prior prison term enhancement. At the sentencing, Blizzard made a formal finding that Deschields’ acts of animal cruelty were done for his sexual gratification. He is currently housed at a prison health care facility in Stockton.

Friday’s appellate opinion was authored by Acting Presiding Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justices Ronald B. Robie and Elena J. Duarte.

Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.