- Associated Press - Saturday, May 10, 2014

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a former Muncie man’s convictions stemming from his alleged abuse of pit bulls that authorities say was part of an operation to train the dogs for fighting.

Rahsaan A. Johnson, 38, was convicted in November 2012 of 14 counts of possessing an animal for use in a fighting contest. A Delaware Circuit Court judge sentenced Johnson to four years in prison, but allowed the current Port Charlotte, Florida resident to post bond and remain free while he appealed his convictions.

In this week’s ruling, the three-judge state appeals court upheld Johnson’s 14 convictions, rejecting his contention there was insufficient evidence to justify them, The Star Press reported (http://tspne.ws/1ntauFO ).

“We find there was sufficient evidence for the jury to determine that Johnson possessed these 14 pit bulls for the purpose of animal fighting,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote in the ruling.

Deputy Prosecutor Joe Orick had said at Johnson’s March 2013 sentencing that the animals were “forced to live a life of misery and pain” in a squalid mobile home and had scars and bite wounds.

The judge who sentenced Johnson will now likely issue a deadline for him to surrender to begin serving his sentence, but Johnson could still appeal his case to Indiana Supreme Court.

Johnson’s attorney, Sam Beasley, said Friday he was uncertain whether his client’s appeal efforts would continue. “Ultimately, it’s his decision,” he said.

Muncie Animal Shelter Director Phil Peckinpaugh, who oversaw the seizure of Johnson’s dogs, said he’s pleased by the appeals court’s ruling.

“I’m just happy it’s come to an end and justice will finally be served,” he said.

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Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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