One dog’s death has sparked an outpouring of outrage in Minnesota.
Protesters waved signs and chanted “Justice for Draco!” “Stop Animal Cruelty!” outside the Sherburne County Courthouse this past week, where Anthony Sather was about to make a brief courtroom appearance on a felony charge of animal torture.
Sather, 25, has been jailed since early January, after his girlfriend discovered videos he shot of himself smiling and licking his lips as he beat, kicked and slammed her dog into the concrete floor of their garage. According to the police report, Draco, a Shiba Inu/husky mix, yelped continuously through the attack and tried to escape, only to be dragged back by Sather for more abuse.
Toward the end of one video, police say, Sather turned to the camera and smiled. “This ain’t done yet,” he said, licking his lips. In the final video, Draco is lying on a patch of grass as Sather aims a silver pistol at him. “Gunshots are heard,” the police report concluded.
Draco’s owner, 21-year-old Andrea Godfrey, found her dog’s body, stripped of the collar and blue bandanna he usually wore, in a ditch near their home a few days later.
“We want him to get maximum time on all charges,” said Emily Randolph, who was so outraged by the story that she founded a Facebook page called Justice for Draco and launched an online petition calling for him to receive the maximum punishment allowed by state law. To date, her online petition has about 95,000 signatures.
“No plea deals for Anthony Sather,” the petition demands.
Sather faces charges of felony mistreatment and torture of an animal, as well as two felony drug charges. Either one of the drug charges carries a heavier penalty than the animal abuse charge.
Sather faces three to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $20,000 fine on each of the two felony drug possession charges. Felony torture of a companion animal carries a maximum sentence up to two years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Sather, who was on probation for another drug crime at the time, also stands accused of violating the terms of his probation.
Sather wasn’t the only defendant facing charges of animal torture in Minnesota that week. The previous Sunday, a Chaska man was arrested on charges that he bit off his girlfriend’s ear and decapitated her cat. Michael Trudeau, 51, was charged with first-degree assault, two counts of terroristic threats and one count of mistreating an animal.
Protesters crowded into the courthouse to watch Sather’s brief appearance. Sather, who has retained a new attorney, will next appear in court March 5.
As he was led from the courtroom, one of the onlookers rose to his feet.
“Sather, you bottom-feeder,” he called out. “There’s a special place in hell for you.”
Outside, protesters echoed the sentiment, less disruptively. Charmaine Schodde of Corcoran identified the man who had called out to Sather as her husband, Dave Schodde, a Vietnam veteran and animal lover.
“He feels really strongly about this,” said Charmaine Schodde, who knows the Godfrey family. “We need to be outspoken about this.”
In the end, the protest lasted far longer than Sather’s court appearance.
“It’s frustrating. We’ve been out here for two hours,” said Rita Buechele, who traveled from Brooklyn Park only to learn that Sather’s day in court had been rescheduled for March. But, she said, “we need to show our support and get justice for Draco.”