Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Man gets 6 months in puppy mill case

The ex-manager of a defunct facility could be freed soon with credit for time served

By Nelson Daranciang


A state judge sentenced David Lee Becker, the former manager of a now-defunct dog-breeding facility in Waimanalo, to a six-month jail term Wednesday for 153 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

With credit for the time he has already been in custody since his extradition from Las Vegas in June, Becker, 55, could be set free as soon as state prison officials receive the paperwork of the sentence and verify his length of custody and that there are no other cases pending that involve him.

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, Becker was still in custody at Oahu Community Correctional Center.

"To say we're disappointed is a huge understatement," Pamela Burns, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaiian Humane Society, said of Becker's sentence.

The Humane Society seized 153 dogs living in squalid conditions at the facility in February 2010.

Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa had asked the judge to sentence Becker to five consecutive one-year jail terms, fine him $306,000 — the maximum $2,000 for each charge — and order him to repay the Hawaiian Humane Society the $370,701 it spent rescuing and caring for the dogs.

"These 153 misdemeanor counts arise not from negligent conduct, your honor, but deliberate and callous conduct designed solely to provide a bottom-line profit for the defendant running this puppy mill," Futa said.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kim told Futa her proposed jail term is a more severe penalty than the maximum five-year prison term for the lowest felony because it would not allow for release on parole.

He also said restitution is not appropriate because the Humane Society is not a direct victim of the animal cruelty. For the same reason, Kim did not allow any of the people who rescued the dogs or who cared for them to address the court for Becker's sentencing.

Kim said Becker saved the state a lot of money when he pleaded no contest two weeks ago to all of the charges against him. Because of the amount of publicity the case has drawn in the more than two years since the seizure of the dogs, he said just picking a jury for trial would have required polling hundreds of potential jurors.

He also said that because the state charged Becker with 153 counts of animal cruelty rather than a single count, which he said was more appropriate, it would have faced considerable problems proving each of the charges at trial.

"What this means is that the trial of this single misdemeanor case, a case less legally serious than that of a person accused of shoplifting a $301 pair of sunglasses, would have almost certainly cost the taxpayers more dollars and consumed more scarce judicial resources than any other trial in recent memory," Kim said.

Burns said Becker's sentence does not recognize the emotional investment it took to rehabilitate the health of the rescued dogs.

Becker did not address the court before Kim sentenced him.

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