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Dec 7, 2018 2:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Man Charged With Killing Aunt's Dog Pleads Not Guilty In County Criminal Court On Friday

Jose Galvez-Garcia at East Hampton Town Justice Court on Tuesday, December 4.   KYRIL BROMLEY
Dec 11, 2018 11:02 AM

A 21-year-old Springs man accused of stabbing and strangling his aunt’s dog to death on December 2 pleaded not guilty on Friday to a single felony animal cruelty count in a Riverhead courtroom and waived his right to have a grand jury review the charge.

Suffolk County Criminal Court Justice Mark D. Cohen said that Jose Galvez-Garcia could face “as little as probation” or up to four years in prison if convicted of the felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals.

One of the dog’s owners discovered its dead and badly mutilated body in a wooded area near the end of Breeze Hill Road in Springs on the morning of December 3, and East Hampton Town Police arrested Mr. Galvez-Garcia that afternoon. The owners, Mr. Galvez-Garcia’s aunt and uncle, had been searching for the dog, a 4-year-old Cockapoo named Simba, since Sunday night.

Police said that Mr. Galvez-Garcia told officers he killed the dog because he was upset with his aunt.

Currently, Mr. Galvez-Garcia, an El Salvador native who moved to the United States three years ago and has communicated in court through a translator, is in the United States legally with permanent residence status.

His attorney, Stephen Grossman of Sag Harbor, said on Friday that it wasn’t clear how the charges would affect his client’s immigration status, explaining that the answer would require an “opinion from immigration counsel.” He added that if Mr. Galvez-Garcia is offered some kind of plea deal, “he needs to understand the risks involved with the plea.”

According to Sheila Kelly, director of communications for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, the DA’s office doesn’t play a role in deportation proceedings.

Bail had been set at $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond by East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana on December 4 at Mr. Galvez-Garcia’s original arraignment. Mr. Grossman told Justice Cohen on Friday that the previously set bail seemed “reasonable,” and it was continued. Mr. Galvez-Garcia was remanded to the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside after failing to post bail.

Due to Mr. Galvez-Garcia waiving his right to a grand jury, he won’t be indicted and was not subject to a felony arraignment on Friday. Instead, the court issued an SCI—or Superior Court Information, according to Ms. Kelly. An SCI and an indictment are similar in that each is a written document that charges a person with a crime, Ms. Kelly explained. An SCI is issued by the district attorney with the consent of a defendant, which Mr. Galvez-Garcia gave in writing through a translator on Friday.

Marili Yanes, Mr. Galvez-Garcia’s first cousin and one of the owners of Simba, said she was at college last week when her dog went missing.

“Simba was in my backyard,” Ms. Yanes said in the parking lot of the courthouse on Friday. She said that Simba had never run away before, and that their yard is closed off, and that she had her collar on at the time she disappeared.

“I knew something happened to her,” Ms. Yanes said. “Simba was not fond of strangers. I knew it had to be someone she was familiar with.”

Although she doesn’t know her cousin very well, she never expected something like this to happen, she said.

Ms. Yanes also said that deporting her cousin back to their home country of El Salvador would not serve justice. “We have a home over there, and he runs the risk of hurting our family,” she said.

She said Mr. Galvez-Garcia has never done anything like this before, and that the act was “unexpected” and “traumatic.”

“I don’t want people thinking we just left Simba outside. She’s very familiar with her family—it was easy for him to grab her,” Ms. Yanes said. “We never knew this was going to happen, and I want my cousin to get help mentally.”

She added, “Simba was everything to me. I want justice for my dog.”

Mr. Galvez-Garcia’s next court appearance is slated for January 9.

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