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April 23, 2019 - 7:08pm

Puppy torturer goes directly to jail for two months, gets three years probation

Above, mugshots of Brandon Joseph Welch after his arrest in October.

A former Batavia resident is being held accountable starting today for the "horrific" treatment of a tortured and starving puppy after City Court Judge Robert Balbick sentenced Brandon Joseph Welch to immediately begin serving two months in Genesee County Jail, and a total of three years probation.

Welch made his sixth court appearance this afternoon, flying in from his parents' house in Florida, accompanied by his mother. His attorney is Rochester-based Frank Ciardi.

The native of Suffolk County pled guilty earlier this year on the misdemeanor charges of falsely reporting an incident in the third degree (for claiming he found the starving puppy); torturing/injuring/not feeding an animal. The charge of owning/harboring an unlicensed dog was not mentioned, so apparently it was dropped.

Welch was arrested Oct. 18 after a warrant was served at his apartment at 679 E. Main St., following a tip from a witness.

"Opal" -- so named by Volunteers For Animals at the shelter -- is a fawn and white colored pitbull mix who was a few months old and weighed only 9.2 pounds when rescued on Oct. 4 after she was found by a Good Samaritan in Stafford. The dog was not able to stand on her own and was covered in urine and feces, and was severely dehydrated and malnourished.

Opal subsequently received nourishment, medical treatment, grooming and exercise while in foster care and was later adopted.

A Class D felony charge of making a terroristic threat, for Welch's alleged threat to shoot the first cop who came to his residence, was dropped because the cooperation of two witnesses, who live in another part of the state, proved problematic.

Today Ciardi articulated all that his client is going through to get his life together. He noted the lengthy pretrial period and that his client always showed up for court appearances. He noted that he has found suitable employment as a diesel mechanic trainee in Florida.

Welch moved to the Sunshine State after initially staying with his grandparents, who live on South Fairview Avenue, in the Village of Montauk, Town of East Hampton, Suffolk County -- on the Long Island Peninsula.

Ciardi said his client has availed himself of mental health treatment and is making progress all around after changing his lifestyle.

"He lacked the mental health to have a life that's fulfilling," Ciardi said.

The defense attorney reminded Balbick that Welch's offenses are misdemeanors. He argued against any incarceration, which Genesee County Probation recommended, and was against his client serving probation in Genesee County since he has no ties here.

"Jail would serve no purpose; it would bring him back down," Ciardi said, and put the brakes on the diesel mechanic career path Welch is pursuing.

The defense attorney even suggested that sentencing be postponed altogether until a course of mental health treatment was completed. He said it would be good if his client could continue his employment as a novice truck mechanic in Florida and have probation oversight transferred there.

Barring that, at least have it transferred to Suffolk County -- Welch could move back to his grandparents' place or make other living arrangements there where he was born and raised and has extended family.

Ciardi questioned whether Genesee County Probation actually read the two-page addendum to his client's presentencing report from Suffolk County, which recommends no incarceration and positively notes the good measures Welch is taking to get his life in order.

He strongly disputed Genesee County Probation Department's assertion that Welch took no responsibility for his actions.

"He took full responsibility -- for lying to police, for his poor choices, for putting his family through this," Ciardi said. "He has no prior record."

Balbick outright dismissed the notion of adjourning sentencing. The judge said the allegations against Welch were serious and he agreed that some incarceration was warranted.

But the game changer was Welch's decision to up and move to Florida before his case was adjudicated, essentially removing himself from Balbick's jurisdiction. This did not sit well with the judge at all even though he broke no law in doing so.

The prospect of getting a probation department in Florida to make room for the oversight of a misdemeanor New York case is not a given. It would be a complicated, lengthy and uncertain landscape to navigate.

By removing himself from New York State, it "exponentially complicated" his case and thereby put the terms of his probation on "shaky ground," Balbick said.

"That move to Florida really put the court in a bind," Balbick said.

When asked if he had anything to say on his behalf, a tearful Welch -- dressed in a long-sleeved red, white and navy plaid shirt, with navy pants and black dress shoes -- told Balbick that he's making progress in his life and that his "dream job" of becoming a diesel mechanic means everything to him. He would be devastated, he said, if he lost the opportunity he currently has in Florida.

The judge called a recess in order to contact the GC Probation Department to be sure they had read the addendum in the presentencing report from Suffolk County.

Welch walked from the podium that's in front of the judge to the gallery and sat next to his mother and cried and sniffled for 30 solid minutes.

When the case was recalled at 3 p.m., Ciardi and Welch stood at the podium and the judge told them that GC Probation confirmed they had read the addendum but still recommended a period of incarceration and he agreed with them.

Welch stood with his shoulders hunched and his arms crossed tightly across his chest.

"Your move to Florida complicated this matter tremendously," Balbick told the defendant. "What you did to (that animal) was horrific. There has to be accountability for the injuries and mistreatment. That's why you find yourself here in this situation."

Balbick proceeded to sentence Welch to "shock probation" of 60 days in jail starting right then and there. He said while he's incarcerated, he has no problem with getting probation transferred to Suffolk County, NY -- Florida is out of the question. Welch's probation will end on April 22, 2022.

Other stipulations:

  • He must notify his probation officer of any change in address, employment, treatment, education;
  • Get job training or a job;
  • Pay a $200 surcharge as required for falsely reporting an incident to law enforcement;
  • Pay a $50 DNA database fee;
  • Two orders of protection were renewed for two witnesses;
  • Allow courts/law enforcement/authoriites to access treatment and mental health records;
  • Avoid disreputable people and places;
  • Do not use mood-altering drugs or substances;
  • Undergo testing as need be;
  • Own/harbor NO PETS;
  • Get a substance-abuse evaluation from an OASIS-licensed clinician;
  • Within four weeks, get a mental-health evaluation;
  • Do not possess any firearms.

Welch, looking dejected and sniffling still, asked if he could hand his mother his wallet and mobile phone before being taken into custody. The Sheriff's deputy at hand said no and took the items from him and gave them to his mother in the gallery.

Welch asked if he could step outside the courtroom and speak briefly with his mother and tell her goodbye. The judge said "if it's all right with the deputy." "No" replied the deputy, "we usually don't allow it once you're taken into custody."

With that, the mother cried and mouthed "I love you" and her 23-year-old son, pouting, arms clenched across his chest, eyes downcast, was led away to jail by another deputy to begin his "shock probation."

Below, photo of Opal when she was first brought to the GC Animal Shelter.

Below, Opal after being nursed back to health and ready for adoption, which was successful.

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