New York Man Receives Jail Term for Setting Cat On FirePosted on March 26, 2014
ALDF Pays Reward to Witnesses Who Helped Convict Suspect in Felony Cruelty Case
For immediate release:
Megan Backus, ALDF
BROOKLYN — Yesterday, Denzell Oglesby, a defendant charged with aggravated animal cruelty, was sentenced to one year in jail after a reward offer from the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) induced four Brooklyn witnesses to cooperate with the investigation. In People v. Oglesby, Oglesby was charged with animal cruelty in the Kings County Supreme Court by District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson and Deputy District Attorney Dianne E. Malone, after Oglesby set fire to an orange tabby cat named Michael. Oglesby pled guilty to aggravated animal abuse under New York’s Agriculture and Markets Law and will serve one year in jail on that charge (he will serve an additional year for bail jumping and attempted burglary). The defendant is also prohibited by court order from owning, living with, or having any control or custody over an animal for five years. In July of 2013, the Animal Legal Defense Fund offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the successful prosecution of the person responsible for Michael’s suffering. As a result of ALDF’s reward fliers, four witnesses came forward with information, and the reward will be split among them. Out of concern for their safety, their identities will not be revealed.
In a February plea hearing, the defendant admitted that he used liquid accelerant to set Michael on fire in the stairwell of an apartment building. Michael was discovered by good Samaritans and brought to the North Shore Animal League. Sadly, despite heroic efforts by Dr. Mark Verdino and veterinary staff, Michael had to be humanely euthanized to relieve intense suffering from deep tissue burn injuries—the fire had torn through Michael’s fur and skin and melted his claws. The defendant’s conduct fulfilled New York’s statutory requirement for aggravated cruelty, because Oglesby acted in a depraved and sadistic manner with intent to cause extreme pain. New York Detective Anthony Schembri led the investigation of the case and tracked down eyewitnesses after tracing a crucial 911 call. The suspect was identified in a photo array, and he is also suspected of killing a neighbor’s cat prior to Michael’s death.
“While it pleases me that this office was able to bring this defendant to justice, the circumstances of Michael’s death are horrible and underscore the need for increased criminal penalties for perpetrators of such acts of violence and increased government funding of humane law enforcement efforts,” wrote Deputy District Attorney Malone after the plea hearing.
“Sadly, it is rare to see meaningful jail terms imposed in cases like these,” observed Scott Heiser, director of ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program and former elected district attorney from Oregon. “This case has proven to be the exception, thanks to the true dedication and fantastic work of Detective Investigator Schembri, former Deputy District Attorney Malone, and Kings County District Attorney Thompson.”
“In this case, the justice system worked and this abuser is being held accountable for his terrible act of cruelty,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “Although this tragedy sickens us, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is happy to pay out this reward—we hope it encourages witnesses to come forward in the future to report and help prevent further acts of cruelty.”