After jurors watched a video Friday showing a muzzled German Shepherd being beaten to death with a hammer, the Pasadena man on trial for that crime quickly pleaded no contest to felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor petty theft.
Young Song, 42, was immediately sentenced in Pasadena by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Darrell Mavis to a year in jail and three years of formal probation. Song, who was also banned from possessing any animals for 10 years, could have faced more than four years in prison.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Alison Matsumoto said the defendant entered his plea in the middle of the trial over the objection of the prosecution, which wanted the jury to render a verdict in a case that Pasadena Humane Society officials characterized as heartbreaking in its cruelty.
The home security video shows the 14-month-old shepherd being shot and beaten by Song, who then took away the dog's body to cover his tracks, prosecutors said. The animal belonged to Song's neighbor; removing the body led to the petty theft charge.
The dog's body was never recovered, and if not for the camera that captured the April 20, 2011, attack, no one would have been the wiser, prosecutors said.
Song climbed a fence and entered his neighbor's yard in the 1900 block of Navarro Avenue in Pasadena, where the dog was untied but muzzled. The video showed Song first shooting the dog with a pellet gun. He left and returned shortly after and started swinging a hammer, chasing and repeatedly striking the defenseless animal until it lay senseless.
The dog's owner later the same day returned to a bloody scene and discovered his dog was missing.
Pasadena Humane Society officials said the level of cruelty was clear on the video, which was the central piece of evidence in the case.
"When our officers first viewed the videotape, one of our officers had tears in his eyes. He'd never seen anything like this before," said Steve McNall, who heads the Pasadena Humane Society & Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "In my 31 years at this animal shelter I've never seen anything like this."
The agency, which conducts animal cruelty investigations, worked with Pasadena police on the case.
Song, an animator who has worked for DreamWorks, is a "surfacer" who creates the look and surface qualities for animated characters, props and environments. His credits include "Kung Fu Panda," "Shark Tale," "Bee Movie" and "Madagascar 2."
The motive for the attack is not clear, officials said, although a hole at the bottom of the fence adjoining the two yards meant that the dog could have been entering Song's property. During the trial, Song's lawyer sought to portray the incident as a man defending his family from an animal he believed was endangering them.
Song was ordered to surrender Nov. 2 to begin serving his sentence.