Duke's leg was broken in three places and his pelvis cracked. Voices For Pets was called and met Duke and his family at VetSmart in Concord, where the initial treatment, x-rays, and evaluation was done. We then moved Duke to Concord Disney Pet Hospital for surgery, where two pins were inserted running from the hip through the knee joint and where Duke received 11 days of loving care before going home.
Duke's family was already having financial problems: The father had been off work for months due to serious medical problems and indeed had a 7-hour surgery the same day that Puppy Duke had his. Voices For Pets was also having financial problems. In addition to the increased number of cruelty cases we are responding to, we also had $3000 in unpaid veterinary bills that we were struggling to pay. How could we take on more? Well, one look at Duke and we said yes, we will take on Duke's veterinary bills and try to obtain justice for Duke and his family, and hopefully prevent this sadistic, cowardly punk from taking out his aggression on future victims.
We took a picture of Duke and contacted the media. The Martinez News-Gazette printed the picture and told Duke's story on page one. KGO, Channel 7, featured Duke's story on three different nights as the story developed. Ultimately, the Contra Costa Times and San Francisco Chronicle covered the sentencing.
Not only did many of you respond with letters to the court, but sent enough donations to not only pay for Duke's veterinary expenses but also most of our other outstanding veterinary bills, which included:
• Honey, an injured rabbit that was dumped in a city park.
• Buddy, a homeless dog with a broken hip.
• Justin, one of our foster kittens, with a deformed breastbone who needed surgery to allow his heart and lungs to develop.
• Tommy Turtle, with a cracked shell, whom witnesses say was intentionally run over by a car.
All of these and many others are today healthy and in loving homes.
VetSmart not only gave us a discount on their care of Duke, but because Duke needed a quiet place to recuperate, PetSmart donated a comfortable doghouse and also threw in a month's supply of their own quality brand dog food plus treats. Concord Disney Pet Hospital did their usual wonderful thing: They did Duke's surgery (see photo of Duke recovering from surgery at left) and provided him with 11 days of loving care at a fraction of the normal cost. So many wonderful people were touched by Duke's story and came forward with help, be it with donations, letters, or attending court hearings. Duke's family and Voices For Pets would like to give a personal acknowledgment and thanks to each and every one of you, but there are just too many.
On November 29, at a plea bargain hearing, both defendants pleaded guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon for their attack on the 17-year-old, and Nicholson pleaded guilty to Felony Cruelty to an Animal for his attack on Duke. The defendants' families were allowed into the hearing, as was the teenage victim with a broken arm and his family. However, Duke's family was told that Pro Tem Judge Stuart Willis had decided they must remain outside. After protest, which included letters to the editor and to the court, on December 13, Judge Lois Haight took charge of her courtroom and said the families of all the victims "have a right to attend and will be included." She further decided that the case would be open to the public and the media--an unusual move for juvenile court.
Many people showed up at the Martinez Courthouse on December 22nd for the sentencing. Judge Lois Haight, described Justin Nicholson as "a very dangerous person to people and to animals. . . . He needs to be in a restrictive setting where he cannot walk away from treatment." She sentenced him to 68 months in the California Youth Authority and added that he will be able to get treatment there. Judge Haight said the case was not about let's see if we can put him into a program and see if he fails--that the court was not willing to take that risk. Deputy D.A. Dan Cabral, who did a good job in presenting this case to the court, said Nicholson could be out in two years, if he completes an anger management class and does not present any more problems. He will be on probation until he is 21, with a 6:00 p.m. curfew on weekdays and 10:00 p.m. on weekends.
Eight weeks after Duke's surgery, the pins were taken out of his leg and today he is fully recovered and very happy back home with his family, which includes Bear, a 120-pound yellow Lab, and two cats. When Duke was brought home after surgery, there was a lot of nuzzling going on with Bear and the two cats. There is no doubt that this family has shared a lot of love and gentleness.
There has been a plea bargain in the beating of Duke, the 4 month old puppy that was severely beaten and who sustained a cracked pelvis and broken leg from the actions of 16 year old Justin Nicholson.
Nicholson and a 17 year old have plead guilty to charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon for attacking and smashing the arm of another teenager with a block of concrete just hours before the beating of Duke.
Nicholson has also plead guilty to a charge of felony cruelty to an animal for the beating of Duke. In addition, he plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of making a terrorist threat against a witness for having left a threatening message on Duke's family's answering machine.
Since both individuals have plead guilty to the charges against them, the December 2 trial date has been cancelled. Sentencing will take place December 13 at 1:30 in the Martinez courthouse.
On December 13, 1999 at 1:30 p.m. at Martinez Superior Court, Department #10, 17-year-old Matthew Jagger and 16-year-old Justin Nicholson will be sentenced.
On November 29, both defendants pleaded guilty to Felony Assault with a Deadly Weapon for smashing the arm of another teenager with a chunk of concrete. Nicholson also pleaded guilty to Felony Cruelty to an Animal for attacking Duke, a four-month-old yellow Labrador puppy, breaking the puppy's leg and cracking his pelvis.
On Monday, December 13, Judge Lois Haight postponed the sentencing of two teenagers who had previously pleaded guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon, and one of whom had additionally pleaded guilty to felony animal cruelty for attacking Duke, a four-month-old Labrador puppy. Both attacks had occurred on November 6, with the 16-year-old and 17-year-old first smashing the arm of another teenager with a chunk of concrete. Shortly after this, they had entered the backyard of the 16-year-old's ex-girlfriend's home, where the 16-year-old attacked the girl's puppy, Duke, breaking three bones in the puppy's leg and breaking his pelvis.
At a plea bargain hearing on November 29, Pro Tem Judge Stuart Willis, presiding in Judge Lois Haight's courtroom, had permitted the teenage victim's family into the hearing, but had refused to permit Duke's family to enter the courtroom. However, on December 13, Judge Lois Haight took control of her courtroom and decided that all the families had a right to attend the hearings and be included in the court proceedings. She further decided that the case would be opened up to the public and the media--an unusual move for a juvenile court case--with two restrictions: Duke will not be permitted in the courtroom, and the media will not be permitted to have any audio or visual recording devices.
Approximately twenty people showed up at the Martinez courthouse on Monday to show support for Duke. And many people wrote letters to Judge Haight. All of them made a powerful and unequivocal statement of support for Duke and his family. It is doubtful if the opening up of the court proceedings would have occurred had the court not been made aware of the significance of this case in the eyes of the community.
On December 22 at 1:30 p.m., at Martinez Superior Court, Department #10, 17-year-old Matthew Jagger and 16-year-old Justin Nicholson will be sentenced.
Both pleaded guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon for smashing the arm of another teenager with a chunk of concrete and Nicholson pleaded guilty to Felony Animal Cruelty for attacking Duke, a four-month-old yellow Labrador puppy, breaking the puppy's leg and cracking his pelvis.
On November 6, pro tem Judge Stuart Willis allowed the teenage victim with a broken arm and his family into the plea bargain hearing but decided the puppy's family must remain outside.
On December 13, Judge Lois Haight took control of her court and said the families of all the victims "have a right to attend and will be included." She further decided that the case would be open to the public and the media--an unusual move for juvenile court--with two restrictions: The puppy will not be permitted in the courtroom and the media will not be permitted to have any recording devices.
On November 6, 1999 in Martinez, 16-year-old Justin Nicholson had an argument with his girlfriend. When the girlfriend refused to come outside, he took his anger out on Duke, a four-month-old yellow Lab, who was kicked, thrown to the ground, kicked again, thrown into a metal post, and kicked some more before crawling under a car for protection. Earlier in the evening, Nicholson and a 17-year-old had attacked and smashed the arm of another teenager with a chunk of concrete.