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Pet Bath House owner sentenced, but may avoid jail time

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  • Pet Bath House owner sentenced, but may avoid jail time

    https://www.uniondemocrat.com/localn...-but-may-avoid

    While Natalie Mendoza cried over the death of her family’s nine-year-old American pitbull, Cici, the 70-year-old owner of the shuttered Angels Camp business Pet Bath House stared straight ahead toward the back wall of the Calaveras County Superior Court.

    “There will always be a piece missing from our hearts,” Natalie Mendoza said. “We are so happy this case is coming to an end, and we can close this chapter in our lives.”

    Hughes did not react as Judge Susan C. Harlan read her sentence: three years of formal probation and 60 days in the Calaveras County Jail or in an alternative sentencing program.

    Hughes pleaded no contest to felony animal negligence on April 2 as part of a plea bargain.

    “I’m sorry for your losses,” Harlan said to Natalie and her husband, Steven Mendoza.

    Hughes was not remanded to the custody of the jail. Harlan ordered Hughes to report to the Calaveras County Probation Office in San Andreas to determine if she was eligible for an alternative work program or home electronic monitoring. Hughes has four days of time applied to her sentence after being held in the Calaveras County Jail for two days after her arrest in July 2017. She has remained out on bail since then.

    If determined to be ineligible for alternative sentencing, Hughes must report to the jail before June 21.

    “I expect she’s going to do one of the alternative programs,” said Deputy Calaveras County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Stone, who prosecuted the case against Hughes.

    Hughes, accompanied by attorney, David Singer, and an unidentified man, declined to comment following the hearing.

    Hughes was accused of three counts of felony animal cruelty, two counts of felony grand theft and two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty related to three pitbulls left in her care in June 2017 by the Mendozas, who are Butte Fire survivors.

    In early July 2017, Casper, 11, a red-nose pit bull; Cici, 9, an American pit bull, and Coco, 3, a brindle pit bull, disappeared. Cici was found dead in a trash bag at a Utica Power Authority property in Murphys about a month later. Casper and Coco were located by Calaveras County Animal Services.

    A Justice for Cici movement brought protests outside of The Pet Bath House (which forced the hand of the city to pull the business’ operating permit) and a constant presence at the court proceedings.

    Julia Falknor, who wore a purple “Justice for Cici” shirt with other supporters of the Mendozas, said she was disappointed because she wanted Hughes to “do some real jail time.”

    Steven Mendoza said he, too, was disappointed in the sentence but proud her business was shut down.

    “I’d love to have more done,” Steven Mendoza said.

    All of the charges except felony animal negligence were dropped according to the plea bargain. “There is no reason to put this defendant in jail. There is no justification for a pound of flesh where it is my client who has lost her business and has been attacked by the pit bulls whom she could not control,” said Hughes’ attorney, Ken Foley, in a letter to the court dated May 2.

    Foley was not present at the court on Tuesday...................
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