A Colorado judge sentenced an Arizona man to probation Friday after he spent months in jail for killing a dog that jumped from the bed of his truck while he was driving drunk.
Nathan Begay, 41, of Pinon spent 161 days in La Plata County Jail after he was arrested in August after reports that he dragged a dog by a chain attached to his truck on Main Avenue in Durango. The dog, a black and white pit bull mix named Sargent, was found dead with injuries to its paws and face.
Begay pleaded guilty to DUI and cruelty to animals, which is a misdemeanor punishable by six to 18 months in jail, a fine of $500 to $5,000 and up to five years’ probation.
District Court Judge William Herringer sentenced Begay to two years’ probation and 120 days jail, time incarcerated that he served before his sentence was imposed. The judge called the sentence “lenient” and said, “Some people will think you should be locked up, and throw away the key.”
But Begay showed “genuine remorse” for the loss of his dog, Herringer said – and he’s done well in La Plata County Jail, where he had the privilege of working as a jail trustee. La Plata County Sheriff’s Office prepared to release Begay from custody Friday.
“All I can ask is forgiveness from the city of Durango and the state of Colorado,” Begay said to the judge, his voice choked with emotion. “I know a million sorrys won’t change anything, but I am hurting deep down.”
Begay’s mother, Maggie Blie-James, said her son loved Sargent, a dog that was a gift from his stepdaughter.
“It was not supposed to happen, but it did,” she said.
Prosecutor Zach Rogers called the crime “a disturbing episode” but said Begay “does accept responsibility and shows remorse.”
Public defender Jonathan Jourdane said his client wants to get help and treatment for issues related to his alcohol use. Begay sees his arrest, incarceration and sentence to probation “as a turning point for himself so he can be there for his family.
“Mr. Begay will live with this. We’re asking for mercy, even if the community doesn’t think he deserves it,” Jourdane said. “He’s a human, and he made a mistake.”