http://www.ctnow.com/news/local/hc-s...eadlines-localA Hartford man accused of dragging his dog from the back of his truck for several city blocks refused a plea offer Wednesday from prosecutors that would have sent him to jail for six months.
Instead, Roosevelt Rhodes, 66, will take his chances with a jury in Hartford Superior Court, where his next hearing is scheduled for June 12. If convicted of animal cruelty, he could face a year in prison and lose custody of the dog.
Rhodes entered Hartford Community Court on Washington Street amid a throng of animal rights demonstrators whose chants included "Jail time for Rhodes" and "Justice for Socks," a reference to the Akita dog Rhodes is accused of abusing.
Rhodes was arrested April 29 in the city's North End after witnesses, including several children, reported seeing him drag the dog from the back of his truck. Rhodes later told police he chained the dog to the truck because the animal had urinated in the truck's cab while he was shopping, police said.
Rhodes has denied abusing the animal, saying he drove slowly enough so the animal could keep up.
Dressed in a leather vest and a Yankees cap, Rhodes declined to comment Wednesday, as did his attorney, Teri Bayer of Hartford. But a niece who accompanied Rhodes to court, Idella Fredrick, said the details of the case have been exaggerated.
"Don't judge him unless you know him," Fredrick said as a handful of demonstrators, one of them shouting through a bullhorn, followed her and her uncle out of the court.
The crowd of about 20 protesters, many of whom came from Fairfield and Bridgeport, said they were outraged that Rhodes may get to keep the dog if he is acquitted.
"The laws are in the books. The courts just need to enforce them and put this man in jail," said Diane Settani, a member of Pet Protectors of Fairfield.
Allison Sloane of Essex brought her 5-year-old Akita, Duncan, to remind the crowd why they were demonstrating.
"We need to speak up for these animals because they can't," Sloane said.
Prosecutor Glenn Kaas had offered Rhodes a plea agreement that would have sent him to jail for six months, followed by three years probation, during which he would have been prohibited from owning an animal of any kind. The agreement also would have required Rhodes to contribute $1,000 to the Connecticut Humane Society and serve 200 hours of community service.
But Rhodes turned it down, forcing the case to be transferred to Hartford Superior Court and a pending jury trial.
Over the past several days, Socks has been recovering at a veterinarian's clinic in Windsor from respiratory problems it suffered in the city pound, where the dog had been since Rhodes' arrest. Clinic officials said the dog, whose feet were injured when it was dragged, has recovered and is expected to return to the pound today or tomorrow.
Rhodes bought the dog for about $800 two years ago and, in an interview with The Courant last month, insisted that he loves and cares for it.
"I love that dog," he said. "Everyone's got it all wrong."