Terrence Cody, the former nose tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, is facing animal cruelty charges in Baltimore County. The Ravens released Cody from his contract on the day he was indicted by a grand jury.
Expert witnesses will play a key role in establishing that Cody’s Canary Mastiff starved to death. The defense is unlikely to question the cause of the dog’s death, but is denying that Cody intended for the dog to die.
Charges Against Cody
Cody was charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty. Each count carries a maximum potential prison sentence of three years. Cody was also charged with five misdemeanor counts of animal abuse or neglect, each carrying a potential maximum jail sentence of ninety days.
In addition to accusations concerning his dog, Cody was charged with illegal possession of an alligator and with five counts of abuse or neglect of the alligator. Those offenses are all misdemeanors. Cody is also charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Cody’s girlfriend, Kourtney J. Kelley, has also been charged. Kelley claims that the animals belonged to Cody and that she was not responsible for them.
At the time of Cody’s indictment, Cody’s lawyer told the media that Cody was a “quality young man who’s a true animal lover.” Asserting that Cody would never hurt a fly, much less his pet, the attorney also said that the dog was Cody’s favorite animal. Perhaps due to expert witness testimony, Cody’s lawyer has changed his approach to the defense.
Cody brought the dog to an animal hospital in Reisterstown for treatment. At that point, it was too late to save the dog, who died from malnutrition a few hours later.
Reisterstown veterinarian Dr. Eddie Molesworth treated the dog but was unable to save its life. He testified that he thought the dog was dead when Cody brought it to the animal hospital. The dog weighed about 50 pounds, less than half the weight of a healthy Canary Mastiff.
Another expert witness for the prosecution, forensic veterinarian Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, testified that the dog had probably been neglected for at least four weeks. She confirmed that starvation was the cause of the dog’s death.
Probably realizing that the expert testimony was unassailable, Cody’s defense attorney conceded in his opening statement that Cody neglected the dog. That concession will likely assure a conviction on one or more of the misdemeanor counts.
Cody’s defense to the felony is that his neglect of the dog did not rise to the level of intentional abuse. Pointing out that Cody paid $4,000 for the dog and another $4,000 to bring the dog to the United States from Spain, Cody’s lawyer told the court that Cody did not intend the dog’s death.
Cody’s attorney also pointed out that Cody brought the dog to the veterinary hospital for treatment. That action is arguably inconsistent with an intent to cause the dog’s death.
On cross-examination, Dr. Molesworth testified that Cody put his head down and cried when he was told of his dog’s death. The defense will likely use that testimony to bolster its argument that Cody cared about the dog and had no intent to harm it.
Perhaps because animal cruelty is such an emotional issue, both defendants waived their right to a jury trial. Whether the prosecution can establish Cody’s guilt on some or all charges will be decided by the judge who is presiding in the trial.