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Newport Beach man pleads guilty to abusing a puppy

December 16, 2010 |  5:47 pm

A parolee pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court on Thursday to abusing a puppy by lassoing it with a leash and swinging it by the neck during an argument with his girlfriend.

Verne Joseph Strong, 57, of Newport Beach was convicted of a misdemeanor count of animal abuse after the judge, who sits in Santa Ana, reduced the charge from a felony. The reduction eliminated a sentencing enhancement for a previous conviction for second-degree commercial burglary, for which he was on parole.

Over the prosecutor’s objections, the judge sentenced Strong to 317 days in jail, for which he was given 317 days credit for time served. He also was placed on informal probation for three years and ordered to pay restitution to the animal shelter for care of the puppy.

The Orange County district attorney’s office had sought a prison term.

Strong's girlfriend, Angel Marie Holmes, 37, also of Newport Beach, is charged with a felony count of accessory after the fact and faces a maximum sentence of three years in state prison. A warrant for her arrest was issued after she failed to appear for arraignment.

According to authorities, Strong and Holmes got into an argument in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Westminster. During the confrontation, Strong opened the trunk of his Chevrolet sedan and pulled out an 8-month-old Chihuahua-dachshund puppy. Police said Strong swung the dog several feet off the pavement using a leash and threw the puppy to the ground. He kicked the dog, causing it to slide across the asphalt under the car.

Officers later arrested the couple in the Wal-Mart parking lot after they found them sleeping in their car. As one officer approached the vehicle’s window, the puppy began to bark. Before getting out of the car, Strong slapped the puppy at least twice in the head, stunning it, police said.

The dog was taken to an animal shelter in Westminster for evaluation and treatment.

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-- Dan Weikel

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