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Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704



Published in the NY POST, 3/29/06 


March 29, 2006 -- Fry him! An appeals court says a Manhattan man was properly sentenced to two years in prison for the cold-blooded killing of a goldfish.

"You want to see something awesome?" Michael Garcia asked 9-year-old Juan Torres before stomping on the boy's goldfish, named Crystal, killing it instantly two years ago.

"My sisters were very upset. They were crying," Juan, now 11, told The Post. Garcia later attacked both Juan and his mom, Emelie Martinez.

Garcia was convicted of assault and felony animal cruelty - but argued that the cruelty rap should be reduced to a misdemeanor or tossed altogether because the victim was just a fish.

"Beloved household pets they [fish] may be, but 'companion animals' in the same vein as dogs or cats they are not," argued Garcia's lawyer,

Robert Dean. "If dropped in a pond and offered the opportunity to swim away, a goldfish will do so without any hesitation and not look back."

But in a landmark decision, the state Appellate Division yesterday disagreed with Dean's contention "that all household pets are equal, but some are more equal than others."

While the five-judge panel partially reduced Garcia's overall prison sentence on a technicality, they upheld the felony cruelty conviction, filleting his argument that "goldfish are not domesticated animals because given the opportunity they would leave home."

"While this trait arguably distinguishes fish from dogs and, probably to a lesser extent, cats, it fails to take into account that many other animals commonly considered pets . . . would depart for less confining venues and greener pastures if given the opportunity," Justice James Catterson wrote.

The fish kill happened in 2003 in the Lower East Side apartment Garcia shared with Martinez, her three kids, Juan, Crystal, then 8, and Emaleeann, 5, two dogs, and a cat. They also had three goldfish, named after the kids.

Martinez said she woke up at 3 that morning to find the 6-foot-5 Garcia standing over her, holding their 20-gallon fish tank. He then hurled it into the TV, shattering both.

Juan rushed out to see what was happening, which is when Garcia "stomped" on Crystal, the decision says.

Garcia went berserk again the next day, punching Martinez in the face and choking her. He went after Juan when he jumped in to help his mom.

He was sent up the river for seven to 15 years, but the appeals court reduced his time to five to 11 years after finding fault with one of the assault convictions.

Dean said he'll attempt to appeal the decision to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

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