Accused Dog Killer Remains in Jail After Court Appearance

Jose J. Galvez-Garcia was led into East Hampton Town Justice Court on Tuesday afternoon. Police say he choked and stabbed a relative’s dog to death. Doug Kuntz

A 21-year-old Springs man who was arrested earlier this week after he allegedly confessed to killing his aunt's dog was back in court on Friday, this time in Riverhead.

Jose J. Galvez-Garcia waived his right to have his case presented to a Suffolk County grand jury and instead appeared in county court on what is known as superior court information, or S.C.I. That often indicates negotiations are already in play that will lead to a guilty plea.

Mr. Galvez-Garcia's lawyer, Stephen Grossman of East Hampton, said the move speeds the process along for his client. Outside the courtroom, when Mr. Grossman was asked if his client was willing to enter into a plea deal, he said that first Mr. Galvez-Garcia had to consult with an immigration attorney, which Mr. Grossman is not.

"We have to get an opinion from immigration council, and I will do that forthwith," he said, adding that his client needs to fully understand the immigration consequences associated with entering a guilty plea.

In Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, the United States Supreme Court ruled that criminal defense attorneys must advise clients who are not citizens about the deportation risks. Mr. Galvez-Garcia, a native of El Salvador, is in the United States on a green card, Mr. Grossman said. He has been living here about three years.  

Mr. Galvez-Garcia was arraigned before Justice Mark Cohen after a brief conference with his attorney. He spoke through an interpreter during the proceedings and told Justice Cohen that he understood that an S.C.I. had "the same force and effect as an indictment voted and filed by a grand jury." Mr. Grossman entered a not guilty plea to the charge of aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony, on his behalf. 

Jacob Kubetz, the assistant district attorney handling the case, asked Justice Cohen to continue the bail, $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond, set in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Tuesday. Mr. Grossman said the amount set in the lower court was reasonable. Mr. Galvez-Garcia remains in the Riverside jail in lieu of bail. 

There was no indication that his family planned to post his bail. His mother, stepfather, cousins, and his aunt, the owner of the dog, declined to comment after meeting with Mr. Grossman following the proceeding. Several members of the family were in tears as Mr. Galvez-Garcia was led into the courtroom in handcuffs to face the judge.  

East Hampton Town police said Mr. Galvez-Garcia took the 4-year-old dog, a cockapoo named Simba, from the front yard of his aunt’s house on Thomas Avenue in East Hampton on Sunday evening, then drove to a secluded area off Breeze Hill Road near Three Mile Harbor in Springs and choked and repeatedly stabbed the dog until it died. He tried to bury it, but, in an interview with police later, said he was too drunk. The family found the dog's mutilated body on Monday.

During a police interview later, Mr. Galvez-Garcia admitted he tried to snap the dog’s neck and choke it, and then stabbed it with a knife from his mother’s kitchen to make sure it was dead. A veterinarian who examined the carcass determined the dog’s neck had indeed been broken, and Mr. Galvez-Garcia was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony.

He faces a maximum of one and one-third to four years in prison. At the end of the proceeding, Mr. Galvez-Garcia and his attorney inquired about the minimum sentence. "It could be as little as probation," Justice Cohen said of the parameters set by law. 

"We've got to change the laws," said Lois Watts, an East Hampton resident who attended the arraignment with her service dog, which caused a brief stir in the coutroom before the proceedings began when it defecated on the floor.