Appeal sought in dog beating case

An Atwater man convicted of beating a dog to death with a board pulled from a fence is appealing the jury’s decision.

Lorenzo Segundo, 19, was found guilty of a felony count of animal cruelty for beating a stray Chihuahua-mix to death with a loose fence board July 9 outside an apartment in the 2800 block of Muir Avenue in Atwater.

Prosecutors said the animal suffered numerous fractures to its eye socket, skull and vertebrae, and bled from its right ear and mouth. It likely died from head trauma.

Judge Ronald W. Hansen sentenced Segundo on Dec. 30 to six months in the Merced County Jail and three years of probation.

The Merced County Public Defender’s Office filed a notice of appeal Tuesday in Merced County Superior Court.

Segundo is serving his sentence in the Merced County Sheriff’s Department’s Work-Release/Home-Arrest Program, which means he is technically in custody, but not behind bars, said Deputy Delray Shelton, a sheriff’s spokesman.

Since California implemented the prison realignment in late 2011, many “lower level” convicted felons have been sentenced to terms in county jails instead of state prisons. To combat increasing inmate populations, county jails have converted some sentences to supervised house-arrest programs, officials have said.

Segundo wears an ankle monitor under the direction of the Sheriff’s Supervised Release Team, Shelton said.

“He must obey all laws and has strict program rules he must follow. He also must check in on a regular basis with his assigned deputy,” Shelton said. “In fact, he checked-in ... today (Tuesday).”

At Segundo’s sentencing hearing Dec. 30, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office requested the maximum penalty of three years in state prison, Deputy District Attorney Thomas Min said.

Min declined to comment on sentence Segundo received.

During the trial, Segundo’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Tony Green, acknowledged the case may be emotionally shocking.

However, Green said Tuesday, animal cruelty is a lower-level felony under state law, and Segundo has no serious criminal history.

“At the end of the day, this is a low-level felony,” Green said Tuesday. “There’s no reason the court should treat him any differently than anyone else with no criminal record who has been convicted of a low-level felony.”

Judge Hansen called Segundo’s attitude in the case “troubling,” but said he had to “counterbalance” the crime with Segundo’s youth and lack of a criminal record, which the judge noted was a single case of driving without a license, according to court records.

From the beginning, Segundo has insisted he is innocent and said he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity. Green argued that a key witness, Liliana Reyes, mistakenly identified Segundo as the attacker. Green said he believed the witness was not lying, but simply “not remembering things correctly.”

Segundo testified that people frequently confuse him with his brother.

Min called the argument “ridiculous.” Min said that Reyes was Segundo’s neighbor for about three years and did not confuse him with anyone else.

A jury of six men and six women deliberated less than one hour before handing down the guilty verdict.