Accused dog burner and parole absconder Adell Ziegler was heading out of a house near West Ferry and Main streets when he ran into his parole officer.
“I grabbed him,” Parole Officer Terry Anderson recounted Monday during a court hearing. “I told Mr. Ziegler, ‘You’re in trouble.’ ”
“He said, ‘I want to speak to my parole officer,’ ” Anderson testified. “I am your parole officer,” Anderson said he replied.
Ziegler is accused of dousing a Jack Russell terrier puppy with lighter fluid and setting it on fire in October. He brought up the incident without prompting as he sat handcuffed in the back seat of the officer’s car on Nov. 9, Anderson said.
“I know why I’m in trouble,” said Ziegler, 19, according to Anderson. “It’s about that puppy, right?”
“Go ahead and tell me about it,” Anderson said he replied.
Monday’s hearing before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia was held to consider which of Ziegler’s statements to law enforcement agents will be admissible at Ziegler’s upcoming felony animal-cruelty trial. Prosecutors Kristen A. St. Mary and Matthew A. Albert of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office want to use Ziegler’s comments to the parole officer.
The prosecutors, however, said they would not use at trial Ziegler’s comments to a Ferry-Fillmore District detective. The handwritten document containing Ziegler’s statement was difficult for the judge to decipher.
And they will not rely on Ziegler’s audiotaped comments to the detective.
Meanwhile, defense attorney E. Earl Key, who is Ziegler’s assigned counsel, wants Ziegler’s comments to Anderson excluded, asserting that Anderson was acting in his law enforcement capacity and never read Ziegler his Miranda rights.
Buscaglia reserved his ruling .
Testimony from civilian witnesses – not considered at Monday’s hearing – is expected to reveal more about what happened to the puppy, since named Phoenix and recovering from its injuries.
Ziegler remains in custody on a parole violation.
Anderson said he had been looking for Ziegler, who had not appeared for any of his mandated office visits “for quite a while.”
Ziegler spent a year as an absconder. His mother tipped the parole officer about her son’s possible presence at an Oxford Place house, Anderson said. She also said he might have been responsible for setting the puppy on fire.
Parole officers went to the house but did not find Ziegler. After questioning someone nearby, they learned he might be at another house on the street.
When they got to that house, they found Ziegler coming out the door, Anderson said. “He was trying to escape,” he said.
Once caught, Ziegler offered Anderson his version of what happened to Phoenix. “He offered it freely,” Anderson said.
A drug dealer for whom he was selling marijuana was not paying him enough, so he smoked the marijuana, Ziegler said, according to Anderson.
Ziegler said the drug dealer showed up with his dog. He said that he threw lighter fluid on the dog but that “his partner” lit the match that set the puppy’s ear on fire, according to Anderson.
Diondre L. Brown, 17, the partner, has admitted to acting as a lookout and pleaded guilty to a felony animal-cruelty charge.
In Brown’s case, prosecutors have 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.
Buscaglia previously explored a possible plea with Ziegler’s lawyer and prosecutors, but the judge has 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. So Ziegler has refused to plead guilty.
If convicted, the maximum sentence is two years.