A woman who nearly killed her dog “Lux” by throwing him up to 15 times in the Clinton River was rejected by the mental health court and sentenced to six months in prison on Wednesday.
Amber Nicole Sunde, 26, of Shelby Township, received the conviction from James Biernat Jr., Macomb County’s district judge, who went beyond parole and three months in prison in violation of the parole board’s recommendation that it requested parole without custody . He also rejected arguments from her attorney who asked for parole so that Sunde could receive adequate treatment for her mental health problems.
She was ordered to report to prison on Friday and will have to serve an additional 18 months on probation after her release.
The top end of the guidelines was reduced from six to three months after Sonde’s attorney William Barnwell advised that Lux was not considered a human victim by law, so some factors could not be considered in the creation of the guideline.
Biernat said Sede’s behavior toward Lux ââwas “appalling”.
“What she did to this dog, I was surprised that the dog was alive,” he said. âThe dog really is a victim. Because of the nature of the crime and the spirit of the guidelines, I believe that I will stick to six months in prison. “
The case got a lot of attention when Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue’s Center Line welfare group got involved in looking after Lux. Up to 151 viewers watched the proceedings on YouTube.com on Wednesday.
Theresa Sumpter, executive director of the Detroit Pit Crew, said the organization was “very pleased” with the verdict.
“We are involved in many animal abuse cases and we consider this a victory,” she said. “Our job is to stand up for animals, because animals have no voice.”
Regarding Sede’s mental health problems, Sumpter said, âMost people who abuse an animal have a mental health problem, and most people who commit crimes may have a mental health problem. Whether or not you have a mental illness, you cannot abuse an animal. If you break the law, there will be consequences. “
Sunde, who appeared remotely on video, showed no reaction to the verdict and did not speak on the advice of her attorney.
Sunde previously pleaded guilty to third degree animal abuse, punishable by up to four years in prison, for the January 3 incident in which she tried to drown Lux and suffered a broken skull and leg. Witnesses said Sunde would throw Lux into the river and every time Lux came back she threw it again and seemed to try at least once to keep Lux under the water.
Her conviction last month has been postponed so she and Barnwell can petition a psychiatric court on her behalf, which could reduce the charge to one offense if she successfully completes the program.
But Barnwell said she was turned down by two therapists despite the recommendation to enter the country. He called the decision “curious” and complained that he was not asked for contributions by Mental Health Court officials.
Barnwell argued for no jail term, claiming that Sunde should be treated for punishment, but did not defend her actions.
“What happened was absolutely horrific,” said Barnwell. “It was awful. It was sick. She’s not her to apologize for.
âMiss Sunde has to live with it every day and will always live with it. The consequences will follow her long after this court has jurisdiction over her. “
Sunde “suffered extreme trauma” because people denigrated her, he said.
“I stopped counting how many people asked her to die, how many people asked her to be tortured,” he said.
By contacting her employer, she lost her job and health insurance and was unable to stay in her home. She currently lives with a friend.
Barnwell said Sunde’s medical records include “several psychiatrists, therapists detailing broad mental concerns, problems, and diagnosed problems with Miss Sunde”.
“We’re not trying to find an excuse,” he added. âWe’re not saying this should go away and there shouldn’t be any consequences. We say there is perspective.
âWe’re not asking for a quote, a slap on the wrist. I ask for an appropriate sentence. “
He noted that she is “pleading on charges” and said the prison is not the place for her to receive mental treatment, a view supported by mental health experts.
“She needs treatment, she needs help to keep the public safe,” he said.
Barnwell pointed out that Macomb prosecutors are in favor of Sunde receiving psychiatric treatment.
Macomb’s assistant prosecutor, Jacqueline Gartin, told Biernat her office had taken no position on whether she should receive a jail term. Prosecutor Peter Lucido admitted that Sunde previously needed psychological treatment, but noted that prosecutors would not agree to a reduced charge.
Biernat asked why Barnwell did not give Sunde a mental health exam to determine if she was healthy at the time of the incident, which could have resulted in her pleading guilty of madness. In this scenario, he found that she would likely spend a fair amount of time in a state mental health facility.
Barnwell admitted that she appeared to have had a psychotic episode during the abuse, but her mental state was no more than insane at the time.
Biernat admitted that Sunde seemed to know what she was doing was wrong because when she was approached by police officers, she tried to walk away and initially gave a wrong name.
Sunde has also been ordered to pay $ 641 to treat Lux, who may still have a leg amputated, which costs between about $ 3,400 and $ 3,800, Gartin said.
She is also not allowed to own an animal during the probation period.