Men accused in killing of turtle, beating of Florida veteran get probation
By FRANK FERNANDEZ | The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 8, 2017
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Two men were placed on 18 months of probation Monday after pleading no contest to accusations they killed a turtle and beat a Navy veteran in a case that sparked outrage.
Ryan Ponder, 23, of Daytona Beach, and Johnnie Beveritt, 18, of DeLand, were charged with battery, a first-degree misdemeanor, in the attack on Garry C. Blough Jr. They were also charged with felony cruelty to animals in the turtle's death.
Ponder and Beveritt were placed on 18 months of probation on the felony counts and 12 months concurrent on the battery as part of a plea agreement. Beveritt had already spent 123 days in jail and was free on bail. Ponder spent 175 days and was still in jail as of the hearing Monday.
The two were ordered to attend an anger management course and have no contact with Blough or his family. They must also together pay $16,500 in restitution.
They were also ordered not to have any unnecessary contact with wild animals but may have domestic pets.
Circuit Judge Leah Case withheld adjudication, which means that if the two successfully complete probation the felony and misdemeanor will not go down as convictions. She also ordered Beveritt to remain in school and warned them that a felony conviction would make things difficult for them.
A third person was arrested in the case, a 16-year-old, but his information is not available because he is a juvenile.
The U.S. Navy veteran said his wife were at home in an apartment complex in Daytona Beach. Blough's wife, Jennifer, and their daughter were outside their apartment walking when they said they saw the the trio hurting the turtle, according to a police report.
Blough said when he tried to stop them they beat him. He said the beating damaged his right eye and he must still wear a patch over it.
But prosecutors charged the trio only with misdemeanor battery rather than aggravated battery.
A charge of aggravated battery requires great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement. But the medical records did not indicate injuries that rose to that level, prosecutors said previously.
The case also lacked the body of the turtle. Police saw the turtle floating in the pond near some blood but never recovered its body, according to reports.
Blough said after the hearing that he was a little disappointed the pair did not have to plead guilty. He also said he thought they might get a little more jail time, for a month or two.
"This is their second chance. Their only second chance," Blough said.
He said he hopes Beveritt and Ponder become productive members of society.
"They need a whole renewed style of thinking," Blough said.
Beveritt was represented by David Hoffman and Ponder by Michael Kapit while the case was prosecuted by Derek Candela.
Jail records show the animal cruelty charge would be Ponder's second offense, though no court public court records are available for such a case.
Prosecutors considered the time Beveritt and Ponder had already spent in jail and that neither one had a prior felony in agreeing to the probation, according to Shannon Peters, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office.
Beveritt had no prior criminal record. He was also a good student at the Richard Milburn Academy, according to a May 4, 2017 letter written to the court by Art Sands, who is principal of the charter school specifically designed for students who have struggled in traditional academic settings.
"He was an active full-time student and was a pleasure to have in school. He made very good grades in each one of his classes and at times, was on the quarterly honor roll. He worked well with all the teachers and students without any problems," Sands wrote.
Beveritt declined comment after the hearing. He and his mother, Lachar Montgomery, held hands as they walked away from the courtroom.
"God has the last say so in everything," his mother said.
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