He had a reputation for handing out harsh and humiliating sentences. He was a huge fan of an eye for an eye justice. But offenders thought twice before breaking the law after hearing about one particular case. And boy, was it awful! The judge’s sentence for one offender was just as bad as the crime that was committed.
Municipal Court Judge Michael Cicconetti from Painesville, Ohio, supports animal rights, and has handed out interesting sentences since the mid-90s. But he’s non-traditional! The judge presides over 40 cases every day and has a reputation of finding punishments that fit a criminal’s offense. He believes this will teach offenders a lesson, particularly because his way of teaching is unique and spot-on, especially when it comes to cases of animal neglect and abuse.
The judge grew up around pets. As a child, he remembered that his Dachshund mix named Herman was his BFF. “He was the best pet a kid could ever ask for,” said the judge. But today, he owns a 10-year-old Bernese Mountain dog named Kasey. His love for her knows no bounds. So, as an animal lover, he just doesn’t understand why anyone would willingly want to harm a defenseless creature who’s done nothing wrong. It’s why he was determined to make criminals pay for what they’d done.
Judge Cicconetti has offered offenders a taste of their own medicine without going overboard. He was a judge, after all. So, he would never break the law. However, he used the full extent of the law to punish those who would harm anyone. “Child neglecters and drunk drivers must take mandatory courses as part of their sentences – why not those who harm animals?” Despite this, Cicconetti wished he could give everyone what they deserved.
Judge Cicconetti went after the first-time offenders, but when repeat offenders showed up in his courtroom, he couldn’t sentence them the way they should have been sentenced. In fact, there was one case that really ticked off Cicconetti. He wasn’t able to hand him the justice he should have gotten. But nothing in the law books that said he couldn’t give him a piece of his mind. This caused his creative juices to go wild.
His unique way of punishing people was common in his courtroom. But the way he did it was actually quite simple. Instead of sending them to prison for 20 years, he exposed them to the crimes they’ve committed. He did this in the hopes that it would make the offenders reflect and realize they made a mistake. In most cases, it worked. One woman was given the option of prison time or a creative sentencing. But her answer shocked the judge.
Victoria Bascom took a cab to visit a friend who was 30 miles away. As her final destination approached, she ran out of the cab but didn’t pay the driver. Naturally, the driver took her to court. So, Judge Cicconetti gave the woman two options. She could either walk 30 miles in 48 hours with a GPS on her ankle to monitor her progress or go to jail for 30 days. She chose to walk. But there were more creative sentences that the judge handed down, which made the headlines.
No one really knew why a woman pepper sprayed a Burger King employee. But Cicconetti came up with the perfect punishment. The judge told her that she had two options. She could either allow the Burger King employee to pepper spray her, or she could go to jail for what she had done. She initially chose jail time, but later changed her mind. The pepper spray bottle was harmless since it only contained water, but she didn’t know that until she got sprayed in the face. Judge Cicconetti was used to these kinds of offenses, but there were two cases that had him hopping mad.
A woman walked into the courtroom that the judge was presiding in. This was her very first offense, so he was ready to hand her a creative sentence. But when he heard her side of the story, he realized that he was going to have to ramp up his game. He wanted her to feel disgusted by what she had done.
Alyssa Morrow was sentenced to spend the whole day in the most disgusting dump available. Her crime? She neglected a 7-year-old dog and made him live in filth in her home. She also didn’t feed or care for the pooch, so the dog was practically emaciated. “I want you to go down to the county dump, to the landfill, and I want them to find the stinkiest, smelliest, God-awful odor place they can find in that dump and I want you to sit there for eight hours tomorrow, to think about what you did to that dog while you smell the odor. If you puke, you puke,” Judge Cicconetti ordered.
There was another case where a woman turned her back on 35 kittens in the woods on a cold night. But she was supposedly running an animal rescue. When Judge Cicconetti learned what she had done, he came up with the perfect punishment. He sentenced the woman to spend a night in the wilderness full of snow. He also added some jail time too. “How would you like to be dumped off at a metro park late at night, spend the night listening to the coyotes … listening to the raccoons around you in the dark night, and sit out there in the cold not knowing where you’re going to get your next meal, not knowing when you are going to be rescued?” He asked rhetorically.
One particular case horrified the judge. Michael Sutton would have been at his mercy if he had anything to say about it. “I know what a lot of people would like to do to you,” he told Sutton. Sadly, this wasn’t the offender’s first crime, so Judge Cicconetti couldn’t simply hand out a punishment that fit the crime. So, he sentenced Sutton to six months behind bars and five years’ probation. But this sentence was way too lenient for his taste.
Michael Sutton pled guilty to charges of animal cruelty after cops claimed he admitted to the offense. Building staff had found the dead dog and called authorities. Sutton was later apprehended. But while in custody, he confessed to something unimaginable.
The 23-year-old Ohio man told cops he harmed his lab-pit bull mix named Knox. It happened because the pooch had peed on Sutton’s bed. This caused the man to hand his own kind of punishment on the pup. A humane officer had seen her share of animal cruelty cases, but this was by far the worst. Judge Cicconetti was so upset that he shouted at the offender across the courtroom. “You are just vicious. You are revolting. You are cruel. You are inhuman, what you did here. Oh, would I like to put you in a dumpster? Oh, yeah. I would love to do that.”
The judge prohibited Sutton from being a pet owner again. “I wish I could say you’re not allowed to be around people, ‘cause look what you do.” After the judge sentenced him, Sutton appeared to feel remorse for what he had done to his pet. He claimed he did it because he suffered from mental problems, but Judge Cicconetti didn’t buy his excuse. “I am sick and tired of people coming in here blaming this on mental illness,” he said.
The judge said: “I’d like to give you one of those creative sentences, but that’s for people who can be rehabilitated, people who are first offenders. You are not. You are not one of those people. You are just brutal and savage, and that’s all there is to it.” Judge Cicconetti threw every word the law would allow at Sutton. But he knew more work had to be done to add laws that protected animals.
Goddard’s Law went into effect in 2016, and it made abuse towards animals a felony. Naturally, Judge Cicconetti supported this law, and yet, he knew that there were a lot of offenders out there that got away with it. So now, he hopes that his unique way of handing out sentences will inspire others in power to provide punishment and ensure more laws protecting animals are passed. And he’s a lot closer to improving laws related to animal abuse, but there’s still more work to be done.
The judge would like to have those responsible for animal-related crimes mentally evaluated. He would also like for there to be a registry for animal abusers in the not so distant future. That way, this will prevent the offender from adopting animals from a rescue organization. Meanwhile, Judge Cicconetti’s creative tactics have reduced the number of offenders who repeat a crime. Hopefully, his methods will be implemented across the nation.