A case that took almost five years to be tried started today before 3rd District Court Judge Deno Himonas and ended in two hours with a plea bargain for John Clinton Smith.

Charges in the case were filed on Oct. 12, 2003, after officers found dogs and equipment used to train dogs to fight in Smith's possession. Smith was on probation for a previous charge, which prohibited him from having more than two dogs.

Police officers found eight pit bull dogs and equipment to train dogs at 600 S. Delong St., which was a violation of Smith's probation. The defendant was charged with six counts of third-degree felony dogfighting/training dogs for fighting and six class B misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.

Smith pleaded guilty to three counts of dogfighting/training dogs for fighting in exchange for the other nine charges being dropped.

In February of this year, Smith was found competent to stand trial. Because of the competency issue, and because Smith takes medication for dementia, Himonas asked the defendant a series of questions to determine if Smith understood the plea deal. He asked Smith if he knew what a jury trial was.

"That's when eight people sit there and decide what they read in the newspaper," Smith said.

The judge acknowledged Smith was joking but told him to be serious for purposes of the record. He asked Smith who was president and what sports Smith followed. He also asked Smith to count backwards from 100 in increments of sevens. Smith's answers satisfied the court, so Himonas accepted the plea.

Smith will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Sept. 5.


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