A Foresthill man who pleaded no contest to one count of felony animal cruelty after tying his dog to a tree and shooting it in the face was sentenced Thursday to 120 days in jail, a move hailed by local animal advocates.
The case against Mark Steven Pope, aka “Redneck” Pope, drew substantial attention after the small terrier mix, renamed Frankie, was rehabilitated by Scooter’s Pals’ volunteers.
Frankie was found tied to a tree by a group of campers Sept. 14, 2012, near Foresthill after they heard him whimpering for two days. The dog had been beaten and shot in the face with a pellet gun. His jaw was broken with parts of the bone missing, and the toes on one foot were broken.
The dog was taken to a veterinarian in the Bay Area and traced to Scooter’s Pals, a Nevada County “last chance” rescue organization that had microchipped Frankie about six months before adopting him out.
Scooter’s Pals founder Susan Wallace said Pope adopted the dog, named Butch at the time, from her organization about eight months before the shooting.
Both Wallace and Frankie’s new owner, Claudia Alexander, were in Placer County Superior Court for Pope’s sentencing — as Frankie waited outside with Alexander’s husband, John.
Wallace told Judge Mark Curry she held no ill will against Pope but that it would be a travesty not to give him jail time; the probation department had recommended 120 days, but Pope’s attorney was reportedly requesting electronic monitoring.
Alexander, who frequently stopped talking as her emotions overcame her, told Curry she considers herself Frankie’s mom.
She said that Frankie, who has been with her family for a little more than a year, has learned to trust again but still has bad dreams several times a week.
The small terrier still has ongoing issues with the left paw that was broken, which forces Alexander to restrict his activity. He also has a continuing issue with a cataract, which was caused by trauma, she said.
Alexander called her adoption of the special-needs pup “life-altering” and urged Curry to impose a serious sentence for a serious crime.
Pope’s attorney suggested that his client had no intent to harm Frankie, calling the shooting of the dog a “completely botched effort” to alleviate what he saw as the dog’s suffering.
Pope reportedly told authorities Frankie was having seizures, although Placer County Deputy District Attorney Joe McInerney noted there was no evidence of that.
“He is an animal lover,” Pope’s attorney said, drawing outrage from Frankie’s supporters. He added that Pope has suffered greatly, both physically and emotionally, from the “significant” community ostracism he has suffered.
McInerney noted that Pope’s medical problems are more likely to be due to decades of substance abuse, adding,
“To turn him into the victim is very offensive to me.”
Pope said that first and foremost, he wanted to apologize to Frankie, saying, “I honestly thought I was doing the right thing.”
He also apologized to Scooter’s Pals and to the people who found Frankie for all the grief he caused them and asked for forgiveness.
“This is a terrible day for me,” he said, tearing up.
Curry chose to follow the probation department’s recommendation, sentencing Pope to 120 days and three years formal probation, with no possibility of alternative sentencing.
“The message cannot go out that you have the right to take a dog out to the woods and shoot it,” he said. “To tie a dog to a tree and execute it, that’s what deserves some jail time.”
He will allow Pope to surrender for his jail sentence by April 23.
Afterward, Alexander, who immediately walked outside to spend some cuddle time with Frankie, said she was happy that Pope was getting jail time — although she said she wished it were a longer sentence.
“It was hard to listen to Mark Pope’s statement,” she said. “I think the DA’s office … really went to bat to make sure this crime was taken seriously.”
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.