A Grayslake-area man was sentenced to 20 months in prison Tuesday for shooting a dog that was roaming outside of his home in January.
Elvin Dooley, 57, received the sentence during a hearing in which the friction between the attorneys on the case caused Lake County Circuit Judge James Booras to threaten to use his power to declare the participants in contempt of court.
Dooley was convicted in May of aggravated cruelty to animals for shooting the dog, which had run away after being abandoned at the nearby Save A Pet animal shelter.
Assistant state's attorney Michael Mermel and assistant public defenders LaTonya Burton and Sharmila Manak clashed early and often during the sentencing hearing.
The defense attorneys objected to Mermel's efforts to use as evidence the weapons police said Dooley owned but were not used to kill the dog, and his desire to call the manager of the shelter to testify.
Booras rejected both objections, and ordered all the attorneys to meet with him in his chambers to discuss the heated courtroom atmosphere.
Mermel and Manak complied, but Burton refused to do so and said she wanted all of the judge's comments made in the courtroom so they would be in the official record of the case.
When he returned to the courtroom with Mermel and Manak, Booras gave Burton the message in public he said he intended to deliver in private.
"I want to warn all the attorneys that they should stop this bickering," Booras said. "If there is any more bickering, I will exercise my powers of contempt."
Mermel argued that Dooley should be sentenced to at least two years in prison, in large part because he possessed at least 17 weapons at the time of the crime despite the fact he was a convicted felon.
"He has all these weapons that he is not allowed to have and should be laying low," Mermel said. "Instead, he is blithely sitting in a Lazy Boy and shooting out the window at man's best friend."
Rene Wright, a Lake County Animal Control officer, testified for the defense that she was frequently sent to Dooley's house in the 24000 block of Townline Road to pick up stray cats and dogs Dooley had captured unharmed.
Manak argued for a sentence of probation, claiming Dooley had hit the animal accidentally while target shooting, and that he has lived a law-abiding life since his 1978 conviction for burglary in Alabama.
Dooley, who faced a maximum of three years in prison, expressed remorse in his statement to the court.
"I am truly sorry and wish I could relive the situation," Dooley said. "It would be a totally different situation if I could go back."
Booras said he, as the jury did before him, was rejecting the argument the dog was shot accidentally.
"The defendant was shooting at the dog with a scoped rifle," Booras said. "The only thing he could see through that scope was the dog, and his intent was to kill that animal."
Dana Deutsch, the manager of Save A Pet who confronted Dooley as he fired from his house, said she was satisfied with the sentence.
"It is not OK to shoot at a living creature," she said. "He did not accidentally shoot that dog; I was there and I know where he was shooting."
Booras ordered that Dooley remain in the Lake County jail until Aug. 31, when prosecutors are scheduled to return to court to announce if they intend to try Dooley on the charges remaining against him.
Dooley faces up to seven years in prison if he is convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm without a state owner's identification card.