A Florida teenager, who brutally killed a cat by burning it alive, was given no jail time during his sentencing Friday.
Roberto Hernandez, 19, was sentenced to five years of probation, plus 100 hours of community service, instead of 364 days in jail, as recommended by Miami-Dade prosecutors. Hernandez had pleaded guilty to one count of felony animal abuse.
Presiding Judge Nushin Sayfie also granted a “withhold of adjudication,” which means Hernandez won’t be considered a felon. The teenager was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation for a year, during which he was to report to a judge every month.
“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,” Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement following the verdict.
A PETA spokeswoman told CBS4 that the organization was disappointed by the light verdict, especially after penning a letter to Rundle earlier this month “to make sure that any convictions in this case come with jail time, psychiatric care, and a ban on contact with animals, including during community service.”
The brutal act of animal abuse was caught on surveillance on July 10, 2016, outside of Hernandez’s home in Southwest Miami-Dade. The perpetrator, 17 years of age at the time, was seen putting what appeared to be a stray cat inside a cage before pouring a flammable liquid on the animal. He then lit some matches and flicked one of them toward the cage, which immediately burst into flames.
Hernandez “leisurely grabs a drink and watches the defenseless caged animal burn alive,” the prosecutors said in a motion filed in early March. “The defendant doesn’t stop there. He 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.”
Since the quality of the footage was not that good, there was doubt over what the animal inside the cage actually was. While a tenant who lived on the property told authorities that the creature inside the cage was definitely a cat, Hernandez told the court that it was a rabid raccoon that was attacking the animals on the farm.
Before giving her verdict, the judge said while she condemned Hernandez’s treatment of the raccoon, she did not think his actions warranted jail time. “I find it curious that in this case the state is seeking jail time when apparently human victims don’t warrant the same approach,” Sayfie said, Miami Herald reported.