A man accused of setting a young steer on fire at Paso Robles High School on Oct. 26, 2013 has been sentenced to jail and ordered to seek treatment.
Garrett Kaplan, 24, of Paso Robles, pled no contest to felony animal cruelty at his Nov. 20 court hearing. Kaplan was given a one-year sentence, 90 days of which are to be carried out in county jail, minus 13 days time served. The remainder of time is to be spent at an in-home treatment facility, where Kaplan will undergo treatment for a severe alcohol addiction, said to have been a factor in the incident. After serving his sentence, Kaplan will serve five years formal probation.
Prosecutors allege that Kaplan was under the influence of alcohol, walked to the high school, dosed the then-five-month old steer named Panda with kerosene, and then lit him on fire. Kaplan underwent a psychiatric evaluation as part of the court proceedings, the results of which were not released. During the preliminary hearing, however, Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy did say the evaluation found that Kaplan suffered from severe alcohol addiction.
During the lead up to the case’s resolution, several people attended hearings to lobby the court to award Kaplan the maximum punishment possible. Many of those people wore lime green shirts that read “Punish Animal Cruelty.” The group said it wanted to make sure that Kaplan received a sentence that reflected the crime.
“We just didn’t want him to slide under the radar,” said Diane Dieterich, wearing a green shirt.
Kaplan’s attorney, David Fisher, told New Times that he felt the sentencing was fair, and that he was glad the case didn’t need to proceed any further.
“We wanted to settle it,” Fisher said. “He didn’t really want to go any farther with it, he felt awful.”
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay