Judge calls out T-shirt wearers during animal abuse hearing

Becky Campbell • Mar 12, 2012 at 10:26 PM

In the midst of setting a trial date for a Jonesborough man accused of torturing and killing the family pet, a Yorkie named Honey, a judge took time to call out animal rights activists in court to tell him they offended him.

Dustin Ricky Harrell, 22, 1178 Old Stage Road, Jonesborough, is charged with aggravated animal cruelty for Honey’s death in November.

Court records indicate Harrell tortured the 4-pound miniature dog for four hours at the family’s residence before she died.

He’s accused of throwing the dog down a flight of stairs, attempting to drown her and putting her in a clothes dryer for four minutes.

An investigator in the case said in the affidavit that each time Harrell injured the dog, he would comfort it. Honey eventually died in Harrell’s arms.

At one point during the ordeal, Harrell apparently put painter’s tape around Honey’s mouth because she was crying after he broke her leg.

He also told the investigator that he used an Icy Hot sleeve on Honey’s broken leg.

When Honey stopped crying, Harrell took the tape off her mouth. After that, she started bleeding from the mouth and died.

During each of Harrell’s court hearings, animal cruelty activists have attended and worn T-shirts that say “Stop Animal Abuse” and “Justice for Honey.”

Harrell’s attorney, Jim Bowman, asked Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp for a bench trial in the case. It’s set for May 30.

During the hearing, Cupp asked three women wearing the “Justice for Honey” shirts to stand.

“That offends me,” Cupp said. “You don’t need to tell me” to get justice.

“That’s what this courtroom is for,” he said.

Cupp told the women they cannot wear the T-shirts to any more court hearings.

Also during the hearing, Bowman told Cupp his client has been “engaged in some intensive rehabilitative programs,” for drug and alcohol abuse.

A county investigator was assigned to the case after Harrell’s stepfather, Ricky Harrell, called to report the possible intentional killing of an animal.

When Investigator Jeff Miller interviewed Dustin Harrell, the officer wrote in an affidavit that Harrell admitted to torturing Honey.

Harrell has been free on a $10,000 bond since shortly after his arrest in November.

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