Ravell Call, Deseret News
l-r: John Clinton Smith, who previously pleaded guilty to dog fighting/training dogs for fighting, appears with defense attorney Ed Brass in the courtroom of 3rd District Judge Deno Himonas in Salt Lake City today.

A judge ordered jail, at least temporarily, for a man charged with dog fighting.

John Clinton Smith didn't show up to answer questions for his presentence report. Third District Judge Deno Himonas sent him to jail Friday so that report could be prepared. The judge also set a new sentencing date of Oct. 3.

Smith, 76, has a history of legal tangles involving dog fighting.

In this case, he was originally charged with six counts of dog fighting/training dogs for fighting, all third-degree felonies, and six class B misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.

In July, he pleaded guilty to three counts of third-degree felony dog fighting/training dogs for fighting as part of a plea bargain. In return, the other charges were dismissed.

During their investigation, police found eight pit bulls and equipment to teach dogs to fight at 600 S Delong (2350 West).

At the time, Smith was on probation for a previous charge that included a prohibition from the court that permitted him to own only two dogs.

Smith's competency to stand trial was raised earlier, but in February he was declared mentally competent.

Defense attorney Ed Brass told the judge that Clinton has several disabilities and some mental health problems, including dementia. Brass said these are not excuses for not making it to a presentence interview, but Brass said Smith might have been confused about the presentence report requirement since Smith had spoken to mental health experts earlier when his competency was questioned.

Prosecutor Fred Burmester, however, characterized Smith's lack of compliance with the court order as an example of a "cavalier attitude."

"He does not take these charges seriously, he does not take this court seriously," Burmester said.

Outside the courtroom, Anne Davis, executive director of the Animal Advocacy Alliance of Utah, said she was pleased with the judge's actions and termed them "a good step forward."

"It's a serious case," she said. "It doesn't seem like he (Smith) sees it as a serious case."

Shawni Larrabee, director of Salt Lake County Animal Services, said her records show that seven of Smith's pit bulls were brought to the shelter, but ultimately had to be euthanized.

"Based on temperament testing, they were unable to be adopted out," she said, adding that is not uncommon with dogs that have been trained to fight. She had no information about the eighth dog.


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