Teens To Be Tried As Adults In Dog's Fatal Burning
Tuesday Nov 3rd, 2009
BALTIMORE -- Two brothers accused of burning a pit bull to death will face felony charges as adults.
Travers Johnson and Tremayne Johnson, both 17, were in juvenile court on animal cruelty and drug charges on Tuesday, but a judge eventually decided to have the teens tried as adults.
The case's jurisdiction was the heart of Tuesday's argument at a hearing between prosecutors and the defense, 11 News reporter Kate Amara said.
Authorities said a dog named Phoenix was doused with gasoline May 27 in the 1700 block of Calhoun Street in southwest Baltimore and then set on fire. The 2-year-old pit bull was euthanized May 31 at a hospital in Pennsylvania.
The dog had burns on 98 percent of her body.
"This was one of the most cruel things I've ever seen. It hurt me to my heart," Baltimore city police Officer Syreeta Teel said at the time.
A city task force was later formed to review animal cruelty laws.
While the boys' parents said the teens are innocent, prosecutors said they plan to paint the teens as serious public safety risks who were involved with gangs. The state said the two also had chronic truancy issues and previous probation violations.
Tremayne Johnson's probation officer with the Department of Juvenile Services agreed, saying, "He was a potential risk to the public … significant."
Attorney Caroline Griffin, who chairs the city's animal abuse task force, observed the proceedings.
"What impressed me was how seriously the state's attorney's office is taking this case, as well as the court. The court listened to testimony for hours, so that's very gratifying that everyone is taking this case so seriously," she said.
Assistant state's attorney Jennifer Rallo told the judge that CCTV video and witness accounts prove the brothers tortured and mutilated Phoenix. She said the twins used a vacant home at 1616 Gilmore St. to keep pit pulls and that police found signs of dogs and gang activity there.
"He is associated with a gang known as the 1600 boys," she said of Tremayne Johnson, "And he bear tattoos related to that name."
"Juveniles who commit these type of crimes are just so much more likely to commit violent crime in the future, and I think people are aware of that, and that's why this case is so important," Griffin said.
Defense attorneys wanted the case to stay in the juvenile justice system, where they said rehabilitation services and programs were available.
The defense argued that Tremayne Johnson has mental and physical health issues, saying he suffers from severe, untreated depression and brain tumors and recently underwent brain surgery.
The judge disagreed with the defense and ruled in favor of the state in terms of both teens. They were both taken to Central Booking after the hearing.