Judge to puppy killer: 'Would I like to put you in a Dumpster? Oh, yeah. I would love to.'

By Peter Holley

Michael Sutton. Photo / Painesville Police
Michael Sutton. Photo / Painesville Police

Municipal Court Judge Michael Cicconetti is known for doling out creative - and occasionally humiliating - punishments to the offenders who set foot in his courtroom in Painesville, Ohio.

If it had been up to Cicconetti, Michael Sutton would have been the latest recipient of his wrath.

"I know what a lot of people would like to do to you," he said.

Sutton pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges last week after police said he admitted to throwing a puppy out of a sixth-floor window of an apartment complex May 3. Building staff found the dog's body in a trash compactor and notified police, who tracked down Sutton and arrested him.

The 23-year-old Ohio man told investigators he killed his dog - a lab-pit bull mix named Knox - because the puppy went to the bathroom on his bed, according to Fox affiliate WJW. The station reported that a humane officer called it the worst case of animal cruelty she'd ever investigated.

By the time Sutton stood in front of Cicconetti on Monday, the outspoken judge admitted that he had a distinct idea of how he'd like to see the pet killer pay for his crime, according to video footage published by NBC affiliate WKYC.

"You are just vicious," he said while Sutton - handcuffed and solemn-looking - stood before him. "You are revolting. You are cruel. You are inhuman, what you did here."

He added: "Oh, would I like to put you in a Dumpster? Oh, yeah. I would love to do that."

But Cicconetti noted that he was unable to administer one of his "creative sentences" because Sutton was not a first-time offender.

The judge's unusual punishments are reserved for a small percentage of first-time offenders and always come with an alternative sentence - usually jail time, community service, fines, or some combination thereof.

The judge maintains that he has seen very few repeat offenders since he began handing out unorthodox punishments in the mid-1990s, according to the News-Herald.

There was the time he forced a woman who abandoned sickly kittens to spend a night alone in the woods without water, food or entertainment.

Or the time a man caught with a loaded gun was ordered to go to the local morgue to view corpses.

On another occasion in 2002, a man who had referred to a police officer as a "pig" was order to stand beside a live pig with a sign that read, "This is not a police officer."

Ten years ago, Cicconetti offered to cut the sentence of a man who shot his Great Dane in the head - but only if the owner of the slain dog agreed to wear a Safety Pup costume and visit Painesville's elementary schools.

"We started small," the judge told the News-Herald in 2012. "It was more out of frustration because after a year or two years, we were seeing the same people come back, with the same offenses. I thought, 'There has to be a better way to do this.'

"Some people, let's face it, you're never going to deter their conduct. It took me awhile to figure that out, too. I can't be the savior of all, because some people don't want to be saved."

On Monday, Cicconetti appeared to imply that Sutton fell into that category as well, saying he had no choice but to sentence him to six months in jail and give him five years probation, according to WKYC footage.

The judge also forbade Sutton from ever owning an animal again.

"I wish I could say you're not allowed to be around people, 'cause look what you do," Cicconetti said.

"I will guarantee you that after you get out, there's going to be another offense," he added, prompting Sutton to nod in agreement.

The offender's criminal record includes two domestic violence cases and pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of criminal damaging or endangering and discharging firearms, according to the News-Herald. He is no longer allowed in his own mother's home, the paper noted.

During a previous court appearance, the News-Herald reported, Sutton maintained he was "very compassionate to animals," said he was "very emotional" when the incident occurred and noted that he needs help getting back on unspecified medication.

Dismissing Sutton's mental illness defense, Cicconetti said the young man had already had plenty of time to get on medication.

"I am sick and tired of people coming in here and blaming this on mental illness," he said. "Then we have to get you medication. We have to pay for it, and then you don't take it. Where does that leave a court? I know what I'd like to do."

He added: "I'd like to give you one of those creative sentences, but that's for people who can be rehabilitated, people who are first offenders. You are not. You are not one of those people. You are just brutal and savage, and that's all there is to it."

- Washington Post

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