A verdict in trial of man accused of shooting his neighbor's dog.
A 42-year-old Plattsmouth man was found guilty on one count and not guilty on two other counts Wednesday. The charges stemmed from a December 1st, 2008 incident in which a 10-year-old Rottweiler was killed by a shot from a .22 caliber rifle in Plattsmouth.
The Cassgram reports that following a nearly three hour bench trial in Cass County Court, Judge John Steinheider said Leon Gehrig Sr. was guilty of animal cruelty but ruled he was not guilty of false reporting and trespassing.
Neighbors, a law enforcement officer, Gehrig family members and Gehrig himself were the main witnesses in the trial.
Defense attorney Bobie Touchstone said Gehrig fully admits to shooting Maggie, the 180 to 200 pound dog owned by Richard Sweet, Gehrig’s former neighbor. But the defense claimed the shooting was justified because the dog had attacked the Gehrig family dog a few minutes earlier in the Gehrig yard and Gehrig was "protecting his own pet and son."
Since the dog was shot in Sweet’s fenced-in backyard, Deputy County Attorney Richard Fedde said the defense had no foundation to claim the shooting was for "the defense of persons or property."
There’s "no question" it was animal cruelty, said Steinheider.
The false reporting charge arose from statements Gehrig made to Cass County Sheriff’s Deputy Wes Harrah a few minutes after the shooting. Harrah said the Gehrig account of the incident changed while he was asking questions, most notably that Gehrig first said the dog was shot in the alley between the two properties but later changed it to the Sweet’s backyard when confronted with evidence to the contrary.
Gehrig said he thought he made it clear to the deputy that he (Gehrig) was standing in the alley but the dog was in the backyard.
In finding him not guilty of false reporting, Steinheider said it might have been a "misunderstanding."
There was no evidence presented to support the trespassing charge, said Steinheider.
The animal cruelty conviction is a Class I Misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $1,000, up to 12 months in jail, or both. Sentencing is set for May 14th.