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Man who killed puppy with cement block gets jail time

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Local,DC,Crime,Scott McCabe

King Tut, a 6-month-old pit bull puppy, was lazily dozing under a tree on a sweltering summer day in D.C. when Sean Delontay Branch crushed his skull with a 100-pound concrete slab.

On Tuesday, Branch, 24, was sentenced to four months in jail on a felony animal cruelty charge. That was one month more than what federal prosecutors sought.

"I don't think you understand the depravity, what it says about someone who does that," D.C. Superior Court Judge Herbert Dixon told Branch.

During a presentencing interview, Branch was asked by a court official if he felt any remorse for the animal's death. He indicated that "he did not care," the official wrote.

Members of the animal rights community called the jail sentence a bittersweet victory and said it demonstrates that the courts are taking animal abuse cases more seriously.

"We're delighted that King Tut could get some sort of justice," said Scott Giacoppo, vice president of the Washington Humane Society. "I hope Mr. Branch uses the time to realize the pain he caused to the dog and to society."

Pet advocates said it is often difficult to convince judges to give jail time for cruelty to animals.

But the judge said the "severity" of the puppy killing warranted the time behind bars.

Branch has been arrested 20 times and has 10 misdemeanor convictions, according to a prosecutor's sentencing memorandum. He "does not respect the law and cannot abide by court orders," the memo said.

According to police, Branch killed the puppy on the morning of June 29 because he believed the dog's owner tried to rob him the previous night.

Branch admitted in his plea agreement that he waited for the owner to leave the area, then dropped the slab on the puppy's head.

A witness flagged down the dog's owner, according to court papers. When the owner returned, the dog was dead and Branch was gone.

The puppy was covered in newspapers, the cement block covered in blood and fur.

In the days after killing the puppy, Branch gave different accounts of what had provoked the cruel attack.

He first went to police several days after the episode and claimed the dog's owner retaliated for the killing of the puppy by hitting him with a glass bottle, according to court papers. The pit bull's owner was never charged with assaulting Branch.

In his initial account of the puppy's death, Branch said it was an accident. He claimed he moved the concrete to create a place to sit in the shade and unintentionally struck the dog when he tossed the block under the tree.

Later, in his presentencing report, Branch concocted another story. This time, he claimed he killed the dog in self-defense, prosecutors said.

Branch said the dog was licking him when it scratched him with one of its teeth. Branch said he slapped the puppy, which then tried to bite him. That's when he picked up the piece of cement and crushed the dog's head.

But the judge accepted the version of the story Branch told in his plea agreement. In that document, Branch admitted that the puppy was sleeping when he killed it, and that his motive had been revenge for what he said was a theft of his property.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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