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Plea Deal Reached in Orcutt Dog-Tossing Case

An adult charged in connection with a dead dog tossed from truck in Orcutt accepted a plea deal that includes performing community service for an animal group.

In Santa Barbara County Superior Court on Wednesday, Ryan Durazo, 20, of Orcutt pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of unlawful transportation or disposal of a dead animal, a violation of the state Food and Agriculture Code.

Under the deal, two other misdemeanor charges — petty theft of lost property and assault — were dropped in the hearing before Judge John McGregor.

Durazo and a then 17-year-old were charged in connection with a dead dog tossed from a truck at a group of rallying teachers in March at the intersection of Clark Avenue and Bradley Road. 

The case against the other defendant was handled in juvenile court where most matters are confidential. The case has been resolved.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the judge ordered Durazo to perform 40 hours of community service at the Santa Barbara County Animal Services shelter or a related organization that cares for animals, Deputy District Attorney Cathy Pringle said.

He also was placed on probation for two years and ordered to obey all laws, Pringle added.

Durazo must pay a $140 fine, but the issue of restitution is reserved.

The defendant did not make a statement Wednesday only saying “Yes, your honor,” and “no contest” to enter his plea.

Durazo also was ordered to participate in a restorative-justice program through the Conflict Resolution Center.

A March 10 date was set to confirm Durazo has completed the terms of the sentence.

The dead dog was identified as a blind poodle named Sam, which had been missing from the Schwark family yard for two days.

Before the sentencing, Johnnie Schwark spoke about the loss of the 14-year-old dog they had owned since he was 3 months old, and the emotional impact on the family. 

Sam’s body was thrown from the passing vehicle onto the sidewalk where students, teachers and their children rallied. 

“Sam landed right in front of a 4-year-old daughter,” Schwark said. “For me as father, I was really troubled by this.”

Durazo, sitting beside his defense attorney Patrick Fisher, turned to face Schwark as he spoke.

“Hopefully Mr. Durazo has learned his lesson,” Schwark said. “Hopefully he doesn’t feel it’s OK to partake in this type of behavior with an animal or feel it’s OK to give an animal beer, which we have seen socially, via posts by his family, of a dog being given an 805 beer. Very troubling.”

The family knew Sam was growing old, Schwark said.

“But to have him for two days in the back of pickup truck and then decide to toss him out like trash, which he wasn’t trash, was really hard for us,” Schwark said. “So we’re really glad this is finally coming to an end.”

He noted family members have attended every hearing since charges were filed, only to have the case delayed repeatedly. 

Outside the courtroom, the Schwark family distanced itself from Davey’s Voice amid inflammatory posts on social media claiming the dog was kidnapped and murdered.

After the hearing, Durazo and his attorney were escorted from the courtroom by a Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputy. 

The Schwarks had sought restorative justice to have a chance to openly talk to Durazo to find out the complete truth about the incident outside of the justice system, the family said.

“I had hoped there was some contrition in his body, but I didn’t see any emotion in him,” Schwark said after the hearing. “But that could be his personality. I don’t know that.” 

“When we go to restorative justice, we’ll have a better idea of who he is and where he is going,” Schwark added. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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