Archive for Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Suspect accused in rabbit’s death faces felony charge

August 30, 2006


A Lawrence man charged with killing Melvin the lop-eared bunny is the first person to be prosecuted in Douglas County under a new state law that makes animal cruelty a felony.

Dist. Atty. Charles Branson's office on Friday filed a felony animal cruelty charge against Lawrence resident Austin Newport, who's charged with killing his and his roommate's pet rabbit July 27 by putting it in a plastic bag and trying to break its neck.

Prior to July 1, the crime of cruelty to animals was classified only as a misdemeanor. But an outcry about some high-profile animal cruelty cases - including the beating and burning of Scruffy the terrier in 1997 in Kansas City, Kan., and the case of a puppy found last year in a Wichita trash bin with bound feet, a broken leg and chemical burns - spurred the Legislature to toughen the penalties.

Now, it can be charged as a felony when prosecutors believe the person "intentionally and maliciously" killed, injured, maimed, tortured, burned or mutilated an animal. It carries a minimum 30-day jail sentence and $500 fine, as well as a mandatory psychological evaluation and anger management program.

Newport's explanation, according to a police report, was that he didn't think he could care for the rabbit any more and planned to eat it. He said in an interview that he wasn't acting maliciously and that the animal died the next day after a heart attack.

"I did mess up, I will admit that, but I was trying to do the right thing," he said. "I feel horrible."

His former roommate, Jamie Nixon, who reported the incident to police, said she doesn't accept his explanation. She said she approves of the tougher animal cruelty law.

"It seems like for something that has no ability to stand up for itself, we need to do what we can," she said.

The law makes a number of exceptions, including the killing of animals under normal veterinary practices, for research experiments or in authorized hunting or trapping. It also makes an exception for "normal or accepted practices of animal husbandry," including practices for slaughtering farm animals for food.

"Based on what we've got here, we don't believe it fits in those definitions," Branson said.

Even though animal cruelty wasn't a felony until this year, in the past offenders still could face jail time. For example, a man convicted of misdemeanor animal cruelty for throwing a pet rabbit off a balcony in September 2005 at a Lawrence apartment complex eventually served a 20-day jail term, according to city prosecutor Jerry Little.


lunacydetector 11 years, 10 months ago

now if they could only make it illegal to kill unborn babies in this state.

....but at least this law should save other bunnies from certain death.

glad to see some people have priorities.

brfts 11 years, 10 months ago

you sick individual...I hope you get what you deserve in prison..

Sigmund 11 years, 10 months ago

  1. Preheat the oven to 110C.

  2. Heat a frying pan - add the olive oil followed by the bacon.

  3. Fry the bacon until golden and crisp. Add the rabbit to the frying pan and fry until golden on all sides. Remove from the pan and place in the casserole dish.

  4. Add the shallots, carrots, bay leaf, garlic and honey to the frying pan and fry, stirring often, until the shallots and carrots are caramelised.

  5. Tip the shallot mixture to the casserole dish, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sprinkle over the thyme .

  6. Pour in the cider, cover the casserole dish and bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, until the rabbit is tender.

  7. Serve with plenty of creamy mashed potatoes.

  8. Serve a year in prison (Kansas residents only).

xenophonschild 11 years, 10 months ago

The minions of law and order have nothing better to engage their time?

If he'd just shot the rabbit, and skinned it, there wouldn't have been any fuss.

This is a trifle - excuse the pun - overkill.

grimpeur 11 years, 10 months ago

Now if they would just apply the same penalties to road ragers. Especially the psych exam. And a swift kick in the pills by each member of a jury of 11 of his, 13 of his peers...ahh, 11, 13, somewhere around there.

Smitty, I think you're in the clear, you chowhound. I see no malicious intent, rather, a refined taste for rodents, or a taste for refined rodents. That dessert, however...I'll just, ah, have a black coffee.

Sig, don't you have 'merkin degrees on your oven? Y'know, degrees F? I love the metric system, but dammit, F is for freedom, by gum.

Powershopper, he probably doesn't vote anyway, and he's clearly unfit to own a gun. It's not that he killed a rabbit; it's the sick mind behind the act.

John Spencer 11 years, 10 months ago

Powershopper wrote: He will never be able to vote nor own a gun as a result of this. He will never be able to join the military, will always have to denote himself as a convicted felon on job applications, and will never be able to acquire a security clearance.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

If convicted, he can (after the requisite number of years) file to have the incident expunged, effectively removing the incident from his record. He can vote, hold all but a few public offices. Join the service, would not have to denote himself as a felon and get a clearance. I am sure that there are a whole slew of people that wish Dahmer, Gacy and Bundy (to name a few) had been prosecuted for the acts of cruelty to animals they commited when they were kids.

BrianR 11 years, 10 months ago

There is a big difference between say tying a dog to a tree for an excessive period of time or beating the dog to death and eating it. In the case of the tree some education is needed in the latter case, something darker is going on. Eating a rabbit is acceptable, eating someone's pet rabbit is a crime.

Sigmund, Will you be showcasing that recipe on your new Food Network show That's Inedible?

Tychoman 11 years, 10 months ago

This dirtbag better get what he deserves.

Centrist 11 years, 10 months ago

You all seemed to miss the part about the rabbit dying "the next day".

This sick a-hole slowly suffocated that rabbit, and all the while trying to break its neck, into the following day.

He deserves what he gets. Period.

eskimopieinKS 11 years, 10 months ago

Hey Powerdipstick

You can vote after a felony conviction in KS. Don't expect us to feed you the info, get out on the web and find it yourself.

In KS, the only time you can't vote after a felony is when you are in prison.

Look it up! You can find state by state disenfranchisement info if you just look for it instead of blindly swallowing some crap somebody fed you.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

feeble 11 years, 10 months ago

"If he'd just shot the rabbit, and skinned it, there wouldn't have been any fuss."

That's entirely the point. Quickly killing an animal, be it a pet or otherwise, isn't nearly on the same page as torturing the critter over the course of 24 hours.

It's been farily well documented in that Berkowitz, Bundy and Dahmer all tortured animals as teens, as did Harris and Klebold.

gerbilsniper 11 years, 10 months ago

Ya know, i'm not saying this guy is right, but some of these other people have a point. If i am sitting in a tree stand at 6 am pointing a rifle at a deer...i'm acting malicious and intentially trying to kill that animal. And someone please tell me a gunshot is a humane way to kill an animal?

So in this state's skewed ass legal system, a creep who beat to death a pair of slippers with ears should spend a month in the pen, never be able to find a job other than fast food, and should have some guy evaluate his mental state....but somone who's gonna shoot Bambi between the ribs is considered the heart of this great state....

Makes me sick

and i know the rabbit owner...she's a fruitcake anyways.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 10 months ago

i wish somebody who actually knew what happened would chime in....personally I think it was just an act of stupidity....The kids just a milquetoast who had no idea how to cleanly kill a animal....And wasn't it HIS rabbit?.....There was an art exhibit about three years ago where a guy allowed a baby mouse to die of starvation in a jar....That seems more grotesque then this bit of idiocy.

Jamesaust 11 years, 10 months ago

"...but I was trying to do the right thing."

While not all who relish torturing animals turn into psychopathic killers, I bet we could find a shrink or two who could verify that many such psychos did begin by torturing household pets.

I'm less interested in any fine or such and more in (a) forcing the psychological eval, and (b) getting this loser-freak 'into the system' so he can be identified if he does turn up with a dozen bodies in his backyard someday.

(DA Branson: if he does time, please make sure the other inmates learn exactly what he's in for.)

Kelly Powell 11 years, 10 months ago

with a rabbit you really only need your bare hand or a stick if it's a really big bunny....grab the back legs and hit them with the edge of your hand at the base of the will seperate the brainstem and they pretty much die instantly(there will be a little flopping and nerve twitching) instead of jail time he should be sentanced to work on a farm where they do butchering.....

number3of5 11 years, 10 months ago

Hey buffalobill

the correct way to kill a tame rabbit is to hold it upside down by the hind legs and wack it behind the ears with a baseball bat or heavy stick. I butchered all of the frying rabbits I raised in this manner. I enjoyed eating them also. When a female quite producing, she was killed and stewed instead of fryed.

scarlets_talk 11 years, 10 months ago

"He will never be able to join the military"

Well, gee, that's too bad. I'm sure they're looking for soldiers of his caliber at Abu Ghraib...I don't think I'd want someone capable of this cruelty to animals in a position to do the same to people.

acg 11 years, 10 months ago

rednek, that's a good idea. He should be the guy in charge of slaughter at the farms, at the human society shelter, etc. He should spend every spare minute of his time killing things for the next 6 months. He should have to work at meat packing plants and be the guy who uses the gun on the cows and puts down the horses at the glue factory (do they still do that?). He should even have to work at Orkin.

Feverpitch 11 years, 10 months ago

I hit a squirrel the other day with my car. I didn't even feel bad about it. That's not very humane is it? Cuff me.

armyguy 11 years, 10 months ago

He can serve in the military, I served with several felons. I am wondering now If I could be a felon as I have killed a few rabbits in my back yard this summer, while they chomped on my garden.

nonsmoker 11 years, 10 months ago

I'm not certain teaching the "proper way" to kill is the best option here. I'm assuming he was in the kitchen, and I doubt there are no knives in their kitchen. If he could only think of using his bare hands to kill the rabbit then either brain implant surgery is in order, or he was acting out of rage. As far as shooting Bambi is concerned, if the "hunter" is skilled enough to shoot the arrow for a clean kill it is not torture. I do have a problem with these "mighty hunters" who have to keep a 4 wheeler handy to follow the deer for miles because they gut shot it.

unite2revolt 11 years, 10 months ago

Do you think boiling lobsters alive qualifies as cruel or accepted? Stupid laws. I guess the next time I think a hamster or a gold fish is suffering, rather than putting it out of its misery myself, I will take to the humane shelter so they can euthanize it humanely. At least that way I won't have to worry about having to go to jail. And before I get labelled an animal hater or something know that when I have mouse trouble I use live traps to catch and release them.

Evan Ridenour 11 years, 10 months ago

I don't really understand the connection some of you are making between the person who killed the rabbit and hunting in general. Hunting is completely different then slowly and inhumanely killing your roommates pet. What kind of person does that? Would you put your roommates pet in a bag and try to kill it? How do you think the majority of the population would view such an action?

There is a difference between getting a hunting license and participating in a legal sport using legal methods and torturing someone else's pet.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 10 months ago

youhave not read the original was his rabbit......The roomate just had an emotional attachment to it.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 10 months ago

unite....thanks for giving your mice to somebody else....just kill the damm things.....Believe me there is no shortage of mice in the world.

sleepy20520 11 years, 10 months ago

Thank you Eride.... This guy wasn't going hunting for food or putting a hurt/sick pet out of its misery. He killed a healthy rabbit because he "couldnt take care of it." He wasn't looking for food but instead used that as an excuse after he said he didnt feel he could care for it. If you can't care for a pet, especially one that isn't your, you give it away to a good home or humane society.

I am a meat eater as well and I go fishing for fish I will eat. I agree things of this nature shouldn't be made unlawful. But this rabbit was not just some WILD rat/mouse running loose in your house, or WILD deer being hunted for food or anything like that. He was his roomates, caged, tame was his roomates healthy PET. Same as a dog, fish, cat, pig, hamster, whatever. If you had a pet of any kind, would you be happy to know your roomate TRIED to choke it to death and then later died of a heart attack? If you do, then you too need a psych evaluation.

bunnyhawk 11 years, 10 months ago

I'm all for protecting animals, but I have to wonder how many perpetrators of child abuse are prosecuted in Douglas County????????????????

It's a sad but true fact that the first protection laws in this country sought to prevent abuse of animals and it was animal abuse laws that were first used to prosecute parents for abusing their children. And 150 years later, we're still more willing to prosecute on behalf of animals than on behalf of children.

Ask your District Attorney and that silly Attorney General Klingon how many of the substantiated reports of child sexual abuse in Kansas ever result in criminal charges and prosecution??????????

guppypunkhead 11 years, 10 months ago

butchering: quickly killing, by say gunshot or hit in the head, or an efficient snap of the neck.

torturing: putting it in a plastic bag, to slowly suffocate. then trying to snap its neck but... somehow failing? so just injuring its neck, and it dies the NEXT DAY, rather than in less than 10 seconds.

acg 11 years, 10 months ago

Eride writes: "Would you put your roommates pet in a bag and try to kill it?"

Not a roommate's pet, no, but I've had a few roommates I would consider doing that to. :)

bunnyhawk 11 years, 10 months ago


can you read? My point was NOT that we shouldn't prosecute for animal abuse. My point was why on earth is our DA's office pursuing this prosecution when only the most heinous of child abusers are prosecuted? It's a matter of scale and priorities this world where saving the unborn is more important than protecting living children.............I guess it only makes sense that we prosecute some poor guy for rabbit abuse..........and let scores of child abusers keep on abusing those worthless children! I'm sure they had it coming! This is Right up Phil Klingon's alley.........going after the abortion providers instead of the sexual abuse perpetrators who put those young women in the abortion providers offices to start with! I would prefer that my hard earned tax dollars be spent on prosecuting felony child abuse..............and if you had a clue at all you'd know that there is a very strong relationship between animal abuse and prior experiences of child's all very closely related.

davisnin 11 years, 10 months ago

This really sounds like a guy that has never done anything wrong before and always makes good moral and legal decisions. I'm really sure a felony will hold this guy back from his future as president.

fascinating_person 11 years, 10 months ago

I only read the first few comments on this page before scrolling in exasperation to the bottom, so forgive me if this topic has already been brought up, but it's my understanding that an alarmingly high rate of people who commit violent crimes - this includes serial killers - have a history of animal abuse. Obviously I'm not implying that this man or any other person charged with animal cruelty is a people murderer, but I am saying that there are logical reasons to punish and evaluate this negative behavior.

gr 11 years, 10 months ago

"intentionally and maliciously"

Intentionally probably could be established, but it doesn't appear he did it maliciously. Though, "the animal died the next day", does sound cruel. If he was having a problem, he should have used a hammer. That would be a humane way of killing it.

Brian: "Eating a rabbit is acceptable, eating someone's pet rabbit is a crime." Why?

If a dog is no one's pet, is it acceptable to eat it?

'What are you in for?'

'Killing my food before eating it'

I've seen kids stepping on ants and pulling legs off grandaddy-long-legs. Should I turn them in? I'm sure studies could show that all rapists stepped on ants as kids. As well as presidents probably did for that matter. Look at your neighbor. Does he look like an ant-killer to you? he a cockroach killer?!

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 11 years, 10 months ago

I think he should do a year, in addition to all of the other punishment. The jail time is far too lenient. He committed a felony, he should not have the right to vote, or own a gun. I detest bullies, or anyone who picks on, injures, or kills anyone or anything unable to defend itself! The legislature agrees which is why they made it a felony, and they are long overdue in doing it. Thank you, Lynn

GOPConservative 11 years, 10 months ago

If it were his own rabbit, he has the right to eat it but should have killed it in a humane manner.

The rabbit belonged to his roommate, who filed the charges. It was her pet. If someone killed one of my pets in front of me in an inhumane way because he "wanted to eat it," I'd want him prosecuted, too, if I didn't end up going off and beating him to death before I reported the crime.

dozer 11 years, 10 months ago

It would suck to be a rabbit in this town.

compmd 11 years, 10 months ago

Unless this guy has a moronic attorney, he isn't getting convicted of a felony. The verbiage of the law requires that the state prove malicious intent. The defendant here has a rather clear defense: he couldn't care for the rabbit and he wanted to eat it. Additionally, the rabbit was shared property, equal parts his and his roommate's. This will work against him, although it weakens the claim of the roommate. As much as some of you might want it to be, stupidity isn't illegal. Sometimes I wish it were. Its quite possible that he didn't know what the most effective way of killing the rabbit was. He also probably had great difficulty in performing the act. He admits he was trying to do the right thing. I would be willing to bet Mr. Newport doesn't have a criminal record either. This case has nothing to do with "Scruffy's Law," nor is it appropriate to apply the same jurisprudence to this case.

What this case really is is a case of a roommate dispute, not a felony crime.

lubyloo 11 years, 10 months ago

I hope guy rots in prison. Anyone that would do this belongs there.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 9 months ago

This guy is a nut case, and all his talk of "trying to do the right thing" and just wanting to eat the rabbit are a bunch of BS, just an attempt to cover his a##. He knew there were places he could take the rabbit to have this done humanely, if this was really his intent.

Exactly how do you kill something without malice, compd? Isn't wanting something dead malicious in itself?

I still believe that anybody that could do this to an animal is perfectly capable of doing it to a human.

gbaker 11 years, 9 months ago

be very very quiet, I'm hunting rabbits.

gr 11 years, 9 months ago

"He knew there were places he could take the rabbit to have this done humanely, if this was really his intent."

So tell me, where do you go, without charge, and ask them to humanely kill your rabbit because you want to eat it?

"Yeah, you are correct but the rabbit still got dead."

Marion, the rabbit being "dead" was never the issue.

Lynn: "I detest bullies, or anyone who picks on, injures, or kills anyone or anything unable to defend itself! "

Do you suggest that if someone or something is able to defend itself, it is ok to pick on or injur them? As far as killing, do you kill mosquitoes? Or if you think they can "defend" themselves, what about flies?

Linda Endicott 11 years, 9 months ago

Well, you can take an animal to the Humane Society, and they will euthanize it free of charge. They will, however, ask you if you want them to dispose of the body. If you tell them you want to take it home to eat it, they will think you are a total nut case.

Just as this guy is.

Of course, the Humane Society would not euthanize an animal that was healthy, without trying to find a home for it first.

Exactly what kind of person has an animal as a pet for a period of time and then suddenly decides he wants to eat it? How many times have you had the urge to eat your dog, or your cat? Do you buy pets with the specific intention of making it into a meal in the future?

He's just making excuses to try and get himself off the hook, because he knows what he did was wrong. I've never heard so much ridiculous hooey in my life.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 9 months ago

Hmmm, the differance is A RABBIT IS NATURES FRENCH FRY....It is a bottom of the food chain pet bunny ended up as dinner when i was a kid, because it became a nuisance animal. Who payed for the damm thing? Whoever shucked out the cash is the owner of the animal, and since rabbits are considered meat animals(unlike cat, dogs and other carnivores) he was guilty of stupidity and nothing more. i am now going to have to buy a dozen rabbits and butcher them on general principle.....oh yes, i allmost hippies who leave your dogs leashed to trees for hours on end while you are at free state or a coffee shop are just as damm guilty of animal abuse.

gr 11 years, 9 months ago

"If you tell them you want to take it home to eat it, they will think you are a total nut case."

So you are saying he had no other option.

"Do you buy pets with the specific intention of making it into a meal in the future?"

Ever been to a 4-H fair? Why they were slicing up Betzy into nice juicy steaks in no time.

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