Grayslake dog shooter takes ‘plea of convenience’
Updated: August 21, 2012 1:55AM
A former Grayslake man had already served his 20-month prison sentence for shooting a stray dog that wandered on his property when the Illinois Appellate Court reversed his conviction and sent the case back to Lake County for a new trial.
Elvin Dooley, 59, was back in front of Lake County Circuit Judge James Booras on Thursday, accepting an Alford plea to one count of aggravated cruelty to animals rather than go through another trial.
Dooley was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge and time was considered served. Booras said Dooley’s case is now concluded.
When asked why he took the plea deal after his court hearing, Dooley denied shooting the stray dog.
“Basically, I didn’t do it,” Dooley said before his attorney advised him not to speak with the press.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Suzanne Willett said justice had been served, with Dooley still having a felony conviction on his record.
“This is a plea of convenience,” Willett said. An Alford plea means that Dooley acknowledges there is enough evidence to find him guilty, but does not admit guilt.
Dooley has since moved to Alabama after losing his Grayslake home and his job, defense attorney Sharmila Manak told the judge.
A jury spent about eight and a half hours deliberating over a two-day period in May 2010 before convicting Dooley of aggravated cruelty to an animal. He was acquitted of animal torture.
A stray chow mix posthumously named Justice was shot on Dooley’s property on Jan. 26, 2010.
The order from the 2nd District Appellate Court in Elgin for a new trial was issued March 12.
The appeals court granted Dooley a new trial for a few reasons.
One was that Assistant State’s Attorney Raquel Robles-Eschbach cried during closing statements at the trial. Her own dog had died just a few days prior.
Another was that Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Mermel spoke about Dooley’s back yard as being a “little shooting gallery” for “blood sport,” Justice John Bowman wrote in the order for a new trial. Bowman also said evidence of Dooley’s guns were improperly allowed in at trial.
Police confiscated 17 guns from Dooley’s residence. Dooley was charged unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and ownership of firearms without a state firearm owners’ identification card.
The gun charges were severed from the animal charges, meaning Dooley would have stood separate trials for the different charges.
Despite the severance, empty gun boxes, gun manuals, several hundred rounds of ammunition, spent shell casings and reloading equipment, and gunpowder evidence was presented during the animal cruelty and torture trial.
“There was no reason for the state to introduce a plethora of weapons-related paraphernalia found in defendant’s home and property,” Bowman wrote.
The statements, crying and gun evidence were prejudicial, meaning that they cast Dooley in a negative light “for reasons that have nothing to do with the case,” Bowman wrote.