RENO, NV - It’s a crime that shocked the community and led to death threats for the defendant and his attorney. Thursday October 1, 2015, 25-year-old Jason Brown was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the torture and killing of seven dogs in 2014.
Brown entered the courtroom Thursday with a bullet-proof vest and shackled arms and legs. There were plenty of sheriff’s deputies on hand. For those who thought this was overkill, consider the courtroom was full, and there was no way of telling who was sitting in the audience.
Brown had pleaded no contest to the torturing and killing of seven dogs. The gallery was packed and Judge Elliot Sattler warned everyone there would be no outbursts, comments... anything that would disrupt the proceedings. If it did happen, Judge Sattler warned the person would be removed from the courtroom.
The judge said there were two recordings that would not be shown to the gallery, that he would be the one to watch the video that would be placed into evidence.
The first person to take the stand was Daniel Preston, who said he was a former high school friend of Brown’s. He said he received a message on his phone in January of 2014 from Brown saying he had just left rehab after three days and was hanging out at a local hotel-casino.
Preston says Brown wrote he wanted to kill a dog. Preston says he then asked if Brown was high. The answer was yes. It was a dark comment, Preston said, but he just laughed it off.
But as reports of a crime in early July would reveal, it wasn’t just drug talk. July 8, Washoe County Animal Control officer Amber Balam testified she was called to the Super 8 Motel on South Virginia Street.
Inside room 162, she said she saw at least 20 syringes strewn about the room, along with various clothing items, collars, a dog crate, and bowl of dog food. But in the bathroom there was a gruesome discovery.
"In the bathroom in a bathtub there was an animal's body. It appeared to be a small dog. There was a severed head and tail. There was also a chunk missing from the thigh area. In the refrigerator side door compartment there were heads of animals, appeared to be from small dogs. Above that were legs from small dogs. In the center rack of the refrigerator was a bucket. In the bucket appeared to be animal skins in it," testified Balam.
Washoe County Sheriff Detective Joe Bowen testified detectives caught up with Brown, who initially told them a girl he knew was responsible. But later Bowen said Brown told them, “I blacked out and woke up to a big mess in the motel room.”
Bowen says the investigation turned up videos in which Brown had recorded himself torturing and killing dogs. In another tape he is getting high with a friend, showing the tape and describing how he would get the dogs.
On the audio portion of the tape, the only sound those in the gallery heard, Brown says he located dogs on Craig’s List and those he could not later sell, he would kill. He and his friend laugh about the dogs’ fate.
Two local residents took the stand and testified Jason showed up to their homes in and around July 3 and 4 and said he was looking for a dog as a gift to his mom. Both Angela Lopez and Charles Frank said Brown was dressed and acted appropriately. It would be their dogs tortured and cut up at the Super 8 Motel.
The courtroom sat silent as Judge Sattler watched the torture tape. He looked disturbed and admitted as such during sentencing. He said it was like watching child porn—something he was exposed to as a prosecutor with Washoe County DA’s office.
“Unfortunately you have to see images of innocent people. In most cases children being victimized in the most god-awful and horrific ways. And so as I watched the video in your case, it really was along those lines that I viewed it,” said Judge Sattler.
Brown’s attorney John Oakes said in all of his years of experience in the courtroom, as a prosecutor and defense attorney, he has seen nothing like this case. He said his client refused to look at his own videos.
Oakes says he has received death threats for defending Jason Brown.
After looking at the videos himself, Oakes told the court, he can understand the outrage. But Oakes went on to say Brown is not the person who was arrested more than a year ago. He says his client used heroin, meth, Seconal, Ambien, Xanax, to name just a few.
“Sometimes all at once,” Oakes told the court.
Oakes told Judge Sattler his client came from a wealthy family. They took him to rehab centers three times, but it was fruitless. But now, off drugs, Oakes said his client was courteous and getting on the right track. But Oakes told the court of all the friends and family members Jason had, they were split into two camps.
One camp wanted nothing to do with him. The other camp said they would write letters to the court, but none showed up. It was the first time Oakes says a client of his has never had anyone in the gallery watching on behalf of the defendant.
Jason Brown asked Judge Sattler for understanding. He had been in jail for 15 months and is sober.
“I never want to be at the point where I hurt things again. I am so tired by the ways that I have lived and so sick of the things that I have done,” Jason told the court.
Judge Sattler listened. But after looking at the tapes and analysis of a psychological expert, he sentenced Jason Brown to four years for each of seven counts of torturing and killing an animal. The sentences were to be served consecutively for a total of 28 years. With good behavior Brown could be out of prison in 11 years.
In his sentencing, Judge Sattler said it is widely believed that those who torture animals will eventually do the same to people. According to a forensic psychologist assigned to the Brown Case-- that is not always true, Sattler said.
In the Jeffrey Dahmer case, Sattler said, Dahmer started with animals and ended with young men. There are other serial killers Sattler said, who never tortured animals. There are defendants who only torture animals, and stop there. Sattler said in the psychologist's final analysis, there was no way of telling which direction Jason Brown is headed.