Sunday, April 22 , 2018, 7:17 pm | Fair 66º

 
 
 
 

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Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Deputies Assigned to Protect Judge Brian Hill

Judge Brian Hill

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has assigned deputies to protect Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill, who has been criticized in recent weeks because of a sentence he handed down in an animal-cruelty case that involved torturing a puppy.

Deputies are conducting extra patrols at the courthouse and watching over Hill outside of work, according to sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover, who said she was not aware of any direct threats made against the longtime local judge.

Hoover wouldn’t provide any other information, but did say last Sunday’s vigil at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens in support of “Puppy Davey” — and stricter sentences in animal-abuse cases — put authorities on higher alert.

“The weekend of the protest held at the Sunken Garden we had knowledge of several intents to protest, and worked with court officials and Judge Hill to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” she told Noozhawk.

Some locals have levied anger against Hill since last month, when he sentenced a Santa Barbara man to a year in County Jail and five years on probation after he pleaded guilty to felony animal-cruelty and assault charges.

The case involved abusing his girlfriend and her puppy, a 5-month-old Doberman pincher that later had to be euthanized.

Duanying Chen was arrested in May 2014 and pleaded guilty as charged in May to four felony counts and one misdemeanor count, including two felony charges of animal cruelty, felony assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, witness dissuasion and violating a court order.

Authorities have said Chen broke several of the puppy’s bones and used a utility lighter to inflict burns on 80 percent of its body. The veterinarians who tried to save the puppy renamed him Davey.

The maximum sentence for the crime was seven years and six months in state prison. The District Attorney's Office argued for the harsher punishment.

Hundreds gathered last Sunday at the Sunken Gardens for a vigil and subsequent silent march down State Street, joined by several politicians, including State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who pledged to help animal rights activists craft legislation with stricter sentences for animal abusers.

Some posters singled Hill out by name, calling for the judge to step down.

Organizers of the “The March of Mourning — Justice for Puppy Davey” asked attendees for peace and to channel outrage about the outcome into positive change.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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