DA drops animal cruelty charges against Babineaux

Updated: November 7, 2007, 7:14 PM ET
Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Jonathan Babineaux expressed relief Wednesday after he was cleared of a felony animal cruelty charge that could have sent the Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle to prison.

Babineaux
Babineaux

"I'm just happy the whole situation is over with," Babineaux said. "It's been a long process. I've been waiting it out and it's finally over."

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said Wednesday he dismissed the charges following an investigation of the death of a pit bull in February.

Pat McDonough, Babineaux's attorney, said it proved Babineaux acted only in self-defense against the aggressive dog that belonged to the player's girlfriend. McDonough said Babineaux was protecting himself and his 5-month-old child.

"This was a clear case of self-defense," McDonough said. "The dog had a history of violence. ... Jonathan and his family did everything in their power to make this dog part of their family."

McDonough said the dog had been neutered, placed on Prozac, sent to a dog trainer and kept on a leash.

Porter said his office's investigation confirmed the dog's history of unprovoked attacks.

"There is not enough evidence to exclude every reasonable hypothesis other than the guilt of the accused," Porter said in a statement.

McDonough gave details of how Babineaux was advised by a dog trainer to spin the dog on a leash when it became aggressive.

"You pull the chain taut and then you spin in a circle," McDonough said. "It's supposed to disorient the dog a little bit, which then allows you to gain control and protect yourself or protect your family or whoever is in danger."

After the charges, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said it sent a letter to Falcons owner Arthur Blank asking that Babineaux be suspended.

"I don't think anybody is more relieved than Jonathan," McDonough said. "Literally the district attorney was looking at prison time for a case like this. ... People really had convicted him before they had all the facts."

The Falcons have been involved in the more publicized case of quarterback Michael Vick, who faces sentencing in December after his guilty plea on federal dogfighting charges. Vick has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

"I'm sure there was a lot of pressure on the Atlanta Falcons to disassociate themselves with someone like Jonathan, but they stood by him until the truth was able to come out," McDonough said.

PETA didn't back off its criticism of Babineaux on Wednesday.

"The fact that a dog died at Babineaux's hands is further proof that the NFL must address the issue of cruelty to animals with the entire league," PETA spokesman Dan Shannon said in a statement.

"No matter the circumstance, a grown man who beats an animal a fraction of his size to death clearly has no concept of humane treatment of animals or self-control."

Gwinnett County Police arrested Babineaux on Feb. 19 after Blair Anderson said she and Babineaux argued at their home. She said she went to the movies, and when she returned, she found the year-and-a-half-old dog named Kilo in "severe physical distress."

Following the arrest, police said Babineaux's account of what happened was inconsistent with information provided by the animal hospital about the dog's injuries.

Said Babineaux on Wednesday: "The main thing is my name is cleared from the whole ordeal. That's where I'm at right now. I'm just happy this whole thing is over."

Falcons coach Bobby Petrino also expressed relief.

"He's a first-class young man who has been great since I've been here and I'm just really happy for him," Petrino said.

Babineaux is in his third season with the Falcons. He has played in six games this season, including three starts, and has 16 tackles and two sacks.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press