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Former Batavia resident accepts plea deal, admits he lied to police, tortured and starved pup

By Billie Owens

A former Batavia resident who admitted he lied to police about finding a starving puppy with ulcerated lesions on its paws pled guilty in City Court this afternoon to two misdemeanor counts, one for lying to police and the other for torturing an animal.

Brandon Welch, who is in his mid-20s and now resides in Long Island, appeared before Judge Robert Balbick with his private attorney Frank Ciardi.

Following a brief meeting outside the courtroom between Balbick, Ciardi and First Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini, Welch agreed to accept the plea deal offered by the people.

Dressed as he was in the previous court appearance -- in dark slacks and a blue dress shirt -- Welch pled guilty to two Class A misdemeanors: falsely reporting an incident in the third degree (for claiming he found the starving puppy, when he actually had harbored the animal at his apartment on East Main Street for months); and torturing/injuring/not feeding an animal -- a violation of NYS Agriculture & Markets law, Article 26.

Another misdemeanor charge for owning/harboring an unlicensed dog was dismissed.

A felony charge for making a terroristic threat, for allegedly saying he would shoot the next police officer who showed up at his home, will be dismissed at Welch's sentencing in April. The DA's office found it problematic to get the two witnesses who allegedly heard the threat to travel to Genesee County for testimony, so the charge cannot be sustained.

Before accepting the plea deal, Welch made factual admissions to Cianfrini.

She asked Welch if on Oct. 4 he told Batavia police that he found a fawn and white colored pit bull near Route 33 and Seven Springs Road in Batavia when in fact he had harbored the animal at his home for several months. Welch replied yes.

Cianfrini asked if he failed to provide sustenance and medical aid for the puppy who was emaciated -- it was several months old and weighed only 9.2 pounds, had ulcerated paws, and was covered in feces and soaked with urine; Welch said yes.

Sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23. The Long Island Probation Department will conduct a presentencing evaluation for the judge in the interim.

A stay away order of protection from Welch was issued for two people.

Balbick said there's a range of sentencing options for him to consider in April. The defendant could serve up to a year in jail, either straight time or intermittant time; have conditional or unconditional discharge upon release; and be fined up to $1,000 for each of the two misdemeanor counts.

In addition, Cianfrini asked to reserve the right to seek reimbursement for a tab of $4,593.38 that the county accrued to house and provide medical care for "Opal" until she was well enough to be adopted (and she was), and to house and care for two other dogs Welch relinquished when he was arrested. The judge agreed to her request.

After signing paperwork and shaking hands with his attorney, Welch seemed to leave the courtroom in decidedly better spirits, smiling broadly and energetically walking out to his vehicle.

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