TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — A Freeville man who pleaded guilty to felony aggravated cruelty to animals was sentenced to five years of probation in Tompkins County Court on Monday.
Seth A. Decker, 24, was arrested on animal cruelty charges in October after New York State Police received a report from a woman alleging he threatened to harm her pet rabbit and another person.
Troopers responded to a home on Lockerby Hill Road in Lansing on Oct. 24, 2018, and found a dead rabbit in the microwave, according to a news release at the time from New York State Police. A person who was in the home told troopers they saw Decker place the rabbit in the microwave and turn it on. Decker was arrested in Locke on Oct. 25.
According to court records, Decker was having an argument with a woman on the phone when he put her pet rabbit in the microwave. The felony complaint states Decker asked the woman if she could hear it jumping and then threatened the person who was in the home with him, saying, “You are next, I’ll slit your throat.”
Decker pleaded guilty in Tompkins County Court on Jan. 4, 2019. At that time, Judge John Rowley said if Decker pleaded guilty and successfully completed in-patient treatment for mental health issues, he expected to issue a sentence of time served and probation which he followed through with at the sentencing Monday.
On Monday, Attorney Jerome Mayersak said his client had long struggled with addiction and was not thinking clearly during the incident in October. He said Decker had successfully completed treatment and planned to continue doing good works as he completed probation.
Rowley said the case was a difficult one, noting animal cruelty cases often garner public outrage because the “complete vulnerability, complete lack of responsibility” of the animal harmed.
“It’s still unexplainable to behave the way you did, to not only torture and kill an animal but have the telephone witness,” he said to Decker from the bench.
Yet the most important consideration in the case, Rowley said, was that Decker was functioning poorly and under a lot of pressure at the time of the incident. Rowley said the Probation Department confirmed Decker had successfully completed in-patient treatment and said he deserved an opportunity to change his behavior.
The District Attorney’s Office, represented by Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama, advocated for a sentence of two years incarceration in county jail. While many people struggle with addiction, she said, “very few have done what the defendant did.” She said his violence toward the animal is evidence that he is a danger to people.
Rowley, however, gave Decker credit for 50 days of time served in Tompkins County Jail and time in in-patient treatment prior to sentencing, so the sentence he handed down on Monday does not include any additional incarceration. Decker will be under the supervision of the probation department for five years, and Rowley said if he violates the terms of his probation the court will not be lenient. “Be very careful about this commitment that you have started,” he said.
Decker spoke briefly and thanked the court for the opportunity to get healthy.
“I’m in a lot better spot now than I have been for as long as I can remember,” he said.