Valdez receives 2 years for dog abuse

Convicted animal abuser Bentley Valdez of Stratford, sits prior to being sentenced Wednesday in Fulton County Court in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The judge sentencing serial dog abuser Bentley Valdez on Wednesday to two years in the local Fulton County Jail said she wished she could have sent him off to state prison.

But County Court Judge Polly A. Hoye told the Stratford man — whom she referred to as a “hermit” — she was limited statutorily to a couple years incarceration.

Valdez, 56, of 404 County Highway 104, was convicted in February of 17 animal cruelty-related counts in the animal cruelty case involving deceased French mastiffs that became known as the “Stratford 22” case.

“It’s quite clear this is not something that happened overnight,” Hoye stated.

The judge told Valdez that while he receives plenty of food and water in jail, it is a contrast to the “pain, fear and misery” he put his dogs through. She told him “people like you belong” in state prison.

Convicted animal abuser Bentley Valdez of Stratford, right, stands with his defense attorney, Allen Day, during sentencing Wednesday in Fulton County Court in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

“I deem you to be unfit to ever own any companion animal again,” Hoye said.

Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown said that Hoye on Feb. 14 — after the verdict — ordered Valdez remanded to the Fulton County Jail without bail. He has been incarcerated there since.

During his three-years of post-release supervision, she said authorities will monitor whether he owns pets.

Sentencing was based on a County Court jury’s Feb. 14 guilty verdict convicting the defendant of two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty. He was also convicted of 15 misdemeanor counts of failure to provide sustenance or care.

State police last year found nine deceased French mastiffs in various locations on Valdez’s property. One had been in critical condition and 12 others in various states of emaciation. The case against the defendant reverts back to an investigation that began on April 5, 2017 at Valdez’s residence. Arriving state police troopers observed none of the dogs had food or water in their pens or inside a porch. Ten remaining living dogs eventually found homes, Surviving dogs reunited in October in Broadalbin in a celebration of their adoptions.

Valdez showed no emotion as Hoye read off the sentence for all 17 counts, including recitation of some of the dogs’ names. It was a mixture of concurrent and consecutive counts that symbolically meted out several years, but in reality only equated to two years maximum time at the Fulton County Jail.

Valdez issued a written statement to the court without speaking. Several members of his family attended the proceeding at the County Courthouse.

Brown said the judge, with her sentence, was legally trying to insure Valdez “serves every day” of the two years, although he will get credit for time served.

Following sentencing, animal rights activist Kathy Baker, who was involved in the case, was emotional and fought back tears.

“The judge did a wonderful job,” she said.

Baker called the case — in which Valdez turned himself into state police after officers contacted him about animal abandonment at his residence — “disgusting.”

Prior to sentencing, Brown pushed for the two-year maximum. The district attorney said Valdez had made “numerous excuses” for his actions, but none were realistic.

“The jury found all these excuses without merit,” Brown said. “The time for these excuses has now passed.”

Brown said that at one point, Valdez, who is disabled, traveled four hours to Long Island to seek medical treatment while his dogs suffered.

“To say these dogs were malnourished is an understatement,” he said.

Assistant Public Defender Allen Day, who represented Valdez, told a different story of a man who he said loved his dogs. He said his client — a former corrections officer — “came to Stratford for the benefit of his dogs.”

“His life and his money was spent on the dogs,” Day said.

The defense attorney, who asked for “leniency,” said Valdez bought hundreds of pounds of chicken to feed the dogs.

“All of this is support that he did, in fact, provide food and water for these dogs,” Day said. “There is a lack of any intent on his part to harm these dogs.”

But Hoye stated the jury “did not credit his version of events.”

“The jury found the people’s case was proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the judge said.

Hoye said Valdez’s dogs were “underfed for months.” She said some of the dogs were found in bags and the fact some died meant some were put out of their misery after they “suffered terribly.”

Following his conviction by jury in February, Brown stated: “This prosecution was made possible only because of the hard work by all involved. Sadly, these beautiful dogs suffered for an extended period of time at the hands of the defendant. This verdict by the jury is for all of the French mastiffs located on April 5, 2017, the deceased dogs, including Dog No. 10 and Agnes, and the remaining living dogs — Maude, Walter, Lola, Ruth, Martha, Maggs, Captain, Edna, Gertrude and Margery.” One French mastiff was believed to be roaming the Valdez property in February.

Brown said veterinarians found multiple deceased dogs and other dogs malnourished. Brown said evidence showed one mastiff was on a couch and a necropsy showed no food in the entire digestive tract. He said one vet said it would take at least two months of starvation to reach that condition. Two other mastiffs, both dead, were located in the porch and were in burlap bags stacked on top of each other.

Another dead mastiff was located in an enclosed outdoor shed on the property, while two other dead mastiffs were located in separate cages outside the residence. Two more deceased mastiffs were in burlap bags inside a barn.

Brown said that in addition to the nine deceased French mastiffs, a dozen living ones were in various stages of malnourishment.

The James A. Brennan Memorial Humane Society provided food, shelter and treatment for numerous physical issues.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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