A Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy who was charged with abusing his K-9 and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty was given a stayed jail term and ordered to pay fines, fees and restitution topping $1,300. A second misdemeanor count of assaulting a public safety dog was dismissed.
Brett A. Berry, 48, received his punishment Wednesday in Carlton County District Court from Judge Leslie Beiers.
Along with the stayed 90-day jail term and his financial obligation, Berry was ordered to abide by numerous conditions while on probation for the next year. They include: no pet ownership, no alcohol or illicit drug use and attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
During his guilty plea on Jan. 12, Berry admitted that he was “blackout drunk” when he hit his four-legged partner, Boone, while at a training event at Black Bear Casino Resort south of Duluth on June 15 after the two participated in certification trials. Hundreds of e-mails and phone calls poured into the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office from people asking whether the dog was OK and curious about how the deputy would be disciplined.
Many wanted assurances that the abuse, captured by hotel security video and released publicly, would never happen again. The video shows Berry hitting the dog, dragging him by the collar and slamming him to the ground.
“It was a fair sentence for a first-time offense, and it was particularly wise of the judge to impose,” said defense attorney Kevin Short, “notwithstanding the hue and cry from people who don’t understand the criminal justice system. He’s happy to put it behind him.”
Animal welfare activists were disappointed that Berry would not serve jail time and took to the “Justice 4 K-9 Boone” Facebook page to express themselves. “Where is officer Boone’s justice? I don’t get the law,” wrote one person. “Shame on the judicial system,” read another post.
County Attorney Thomas Pertler said that Berry’s sentence on a misdemeanor conviction “is typical of what we see … for a first-time [offender] who’s never been in trouble in their life.”
Berry “wasn’t getting any preferential treatment” because of his being in law enforcement, Pertler added. “Nobody cut him a break.”
While awaiting possible department discipline, Berry is assigned to the detention services as the Sheriff’s Office internal investigation continues, said Sgt. John Eastham, the office’s spokesman.
Boone has a new handler and is actively on patrol, Eastham added.