Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Aunt’s Dog

Jose J. Galvez-Garcia, seen here being led into East Hampton Town Justice Court in December, has been behind bars since his arrest, unable to post bail. Doug Kuntz

A man accused in December of killing his aunt's dog pleaded guilty Friday morning in Suffolk County court, even though the judge made no sentencing promises. 

Jose J. Galvez-Garcia, who turned 22 while behind bars, faces as much as two years in prison on a charge of aggravated animal cruelty, a Class E felony under the State Agriculture and Markets Law. His East Hampton attorney, Stephen Grossman, submitted material to the judge in the hope of a more lenient sentence, such as probation. Jacob Kubetz, the assistant district attorney handling the case for Suffolk County D.A. Tim Sini's Enhanced Prosecution Bureau, said the maximum would be recommended. 

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen said he would review the material before sentencing on May 14. 

Through a Spanish translator, Mr. Galvez-Garcia admitted in court that he killed his aunt's dog, a companion animal under the law, on Dec. 2, 2018. Mr. Kubetz went one step further and asked him the dog's name.

"Simba," Mr. Galvez-Garcia said. 

He had confessed to East Hampton Town police that he kidnapped the 4-year-old cockapoo from its yard on Thomas Avenue in East Hampton because he was angry with his aunt. He then drove to a secluded area off Breeze Hill Road near Three Mile Harbor in Springs and choked and repeatedly stabbed the dog with a knife until it died.

After arriving at his mother's house, Mr. Galvez-Garcia was acting strange and said he had been at the beach. His mother noticed a dent in the car, blood, and found dog hair inside it. They knew Mr. Galvez-Garcia's aunt's dog was missing. Family members searched the beach parking area where Mr. Galvez-Garcia said he had been. The dog's mutilated carcass was found in the woods about 50 feet from the road, police said.

During a police interview, 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.

However, when Mr. Kubetz asked him Friday if he had intentionally killed the dog, Mr. Galvez-Garcia said, "Not intentionally." 

"Did you kill the dog?" Mr. Kubetz then asked.

"Yes," Mr. Galvez-Garcia said as he stood handcuffed and swaying back and forth. 

"Did you stab the dog with a knife? Did you strangle it?"

"Yes," he said. 

The judge stopped the proceedings so he could review the statute for clarification of whether Mr. Galvez-Garcia had to say he had intentionally killed the dog.

"A person is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals when, with no justifiable purpose, he or she intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with aggravated cruelty," the law states. 

The judge and Mr. Kubetz questioned him further. "The dog was not attacking you or anything at that time, was it?" Mr. Kubetz asked.

"No," was the answer. 

Judge Cohen asked him if in a variety of ways whether he wanted to withdraw his not guilty plea and if he understood the possible ramifications. Pleading guilty to a felony could have an impact on his immigration status, as he is from El Salvador and not a United States citizen. Mr. Grossman has said his client is here on a green card. He could be subject to deportation proceedings. 

Mr. Galvez-Garcia said he understood, and he was taken back to the Suffolk County jail to await sentencing. 

Outside court, Mr. Grossman was asked why his client decided to plead guilty four months after the incident.

"The judge having made no promises, there didn't appear to be another choice," he said.

"This individual, without any cause or reason, killed an innocent, defenseless animal," Mr. Sini, the D.A., said in a statement. "This kind of cruelty is inexcusable and will not be tolerated by my office."