A judge would not offer to chop time off a maximum prison sentence, so the man accused of dousing a Jack Russell terrier with lighter fluid and setting the puppy on fire in October refused to plead guilty Friday to a felony animal-cruelty count.
If convicted, Adell Ziegler, 19, faces a maximum two-year prison sentence.
Meanwhile, defense attorney E. Earl Key, who is Ziegler’s assigned counsel, told the judge he plans to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s animal cruelty law.
“It is constitutionally vague on its face,” Key said after the court hearing.
State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia scheduled a hearing for Feb. 4 to hear the challenge.
If the case goes to trial, jury selection would begin April 25.
Ziegler, already in custody on a parole violation, could remain jailed for the violation until October, prosecutor Kristen A. St. Mary told the judge.
As he explored a possible plea with the lawyers, Buscaglia said he would not commit to any sentence less than two years, which would begin after Ziegler finishes serving his time for the parole violation.
Diondre L. Brown, 17, who admitted that he acted as a lookout, pleaded guilty earlier this month to the felony animal-cruelty charge.
In Brown’s case, prosecutors recommended youthful-offender status, because his involvement in the crime was relatively minimal, and he has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in Ziegler’s case.
St. Mary, the prosecutor, told the judge the District Attorney’s Office may seek the maximum sentence if Ziegler is convicted.
Phoenix, the 5½-month-old Jack Russell terrier intentionally set on fire Oct. 29, continues to recover.
Veterinarians performed skin grafting on the puppy’s neck and on his torso by his legs, and they have taken dead tissue off his ears. They also worked to save Phoenix’s left hind leg.