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Hung Jury in Cat Killings; Judge Orders a New Trial

June 11, 1996|TINA NGUYEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA NIGUEL — A jury deadlocked today in the trial of a San Clemente tow truck driver accused of animal cruelty for beheading two pet cats he said he could not afford to keep.

After deliberating for two hours, the 12-member jury could not agree on a verdict for Danny Drake, 38, who was charged with two misdemeanors for decapitating two of his cats in his backyard April 10.

Judge Ronald Kreber ordered a new trial, and the date for the pretrial for July 8 in Municipal Court in Laguna Niguel.

Drake could face a maximum sentence of two years in County Jail and a $20,000 fine, said Deputy Public Defender Christine McDonald.

Drake testified that he killed the cats because his landlord threatened to evict him if he did not get rid of his pets. Drake and his wife could not find anyone who would take in the pets, nor could they afford the cost of euthanasia, McDonald argued during the trial.

"He and his family had moved into a new apartment in order to improve their standard of living," McDonald said. "They had exhausted all their alternatives . . . and so he made a decision to put his family before his pets."

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Michelle Cipolleti told jurors that Drake was heartless, as she waved the machete he allegedly used.

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