Overview: Sad and bizarre are the only words to describe this weeks Law Review case, where Jim Porter discusses a new Court of Appeal decision where a homeless man was convicted of sexual assault on a Chihuahua and sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender. The case was ordered not published but it was too interesting not to write about.
All I can say is, if that headline does not pique your interest, I don’t know what will.
The opening paragraph of this Third District (Sacramento) Court of Appeal case reads: “A Chihuahua survived strangulation and anal penetration. A jury found defendant Robert DeShields guilty of animal cruelty…and ordered defendant to register as a sex offender…[having committed] animal cruelty for a sexual purpose.”
Homeless Man in the Garage
Robert DeShields was homeless but needed a residence to qualify for government assistance so he paid to live in the garage of a house occupied by the Urrabazo family. Their mistake. DeShields uses a wheelchair and a catheter, but apparently preferred to defecate in the back yard and dump his catheter bag wherever he pleased.
The family acquired a six-pound male Chihuahua named Shadow. Despite being warned Shadow was not allowed in the garage, DeShields was discovered on several occasions with the dog on his lap under a blanket while DeShields was naked.
Early on Sunday, May 27, 2011, family members saw Shadow on DeShields’ lap. A family member took Shadow back into the house and had a firm discussion with the defendant. The dog went missing that day. DeShields was told that he would be missing if the dog were not found by Tuesday. On Tuesday, a lifeless Shadow was found — on DeShields’ lap. Shadow’s anus was bleeding and his rectum showed traumatic anal penetration. I’ll spare you the details.
Shadow had also been manually strangulated. DeShields did not have an explanation. In fact he did not testify at his own criminal trial.
Bad character evidence came out at the trial, including six prior drug convictions, plus convictions for receiving stolen property, evading police, auto theft and more. A prior arrest, without conviction, for sexual molestation did not get presented to the jury.
The jury found DeShields guilty of animal cruelty but was deadlocked on the count of sexual assault of a dog. He was sentenced to a prison term of 10 years. Based upon the trial court’s finding that DeShields committed animal cruelty for a sexual purpose and sexual gratification, the trial judge ordered DeShields to register as a sex offender. Interesting.
Sex Offender’s Defense
DeShields appealed, arguing to the Court of Appeal that because his offense was committed against a dog rather than a person, he was not a sex offender. Also because a jury had not convicted him of a sexual offense, he could not be ordered to register. Further, just because he is a drug user who committed a sex offense against a dog, he is not likely to commit a sex offense against a person. (He receives stolen property, evades police, steals cars, commits multiple drug crimes, but he would never commit a sex offense – really). Those were DeShields’ arguments on appeal. The best he could do.
The Court of Appeal struck down all of DeShields’ arguments and upheld the trial court’s 10-year sentence and mandate to register as a sex offender. DeShields is currently housed at a prison healthcare facility in Stockton.
Case Not Published
For reasons not entirely clear, the DeShields case will not be “published” which means the Opinion may not be cited as precedent. Nevertheless, DeShields will be doing 10 and is required to register. And that’s a good thing.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at email@example.com or www.portersimon.com.
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