Ex-animal shelter employees sentenced - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Ex-animal shelter employees sentenced

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

A pair of former Memphis Animal Shelter employees were seeking the kind of mercy from a judge prosecutors say they never gave to defenseless animals.

Instead, Archie Elliot and Frank Lightfoot, who earlier pleaded guilty to six counts of aggravated animal cruelty, were instead sentenced.

Elliot was given two years behind bars for hanging and choking canines in his care while Lightfoot received 20 days in prison, 23 months probation and was ordered to serve 60 hours of community service.

During their sentencing hearing Tuesday, both testified they had succumbed to the pressures their jobs had created.

Additional testimony from an unidentified undercover Memphis police officer Who broke the case brought gasps and tears in the courtroom.

The undercover officer pulled no punches. When asked to describe the attitudes of Elliot and Lightfoot when it came to doing their jobs at the Memphis Animal Shelter, their philosophy was simple: look for the easiest way to get it done, even if it meant ignoring the rules.

Seven months ago in announcing the end of a three-month Memphis Police Department undercover investigation into the operations of the city's animal shelter, a somber Mayor A C Wharton gave a strong hint at the solid evidence that led to the arrest of three employees on aggravated animal cruelty charges.

"Examples are plain, concise and direct," he said. "Easy enough for a second grader to know that somebody ought to get in trouble."

But, the graphic testimony given at a sentencing hearing by the undercover police officer who infiltrated what  Wharton previously dubbed a "closed society," left nothing out about the sadistic actions against defenseless dogs and cats violently dished out by convicted former shelter technicians Lightfoot and Elliot.

Unflappable on the witness stand, the undercover officer, who police asked FOX13 News not to identify, gave precise information on dates and times, beginning November 2011 and stretching into February 2012, when he watched as remorseless Elliot lifted a dog scheduled to be euthanized off the floor by its leash and choked it by letting it dangle over a sink.

His dossier on Lightfoot was even more horrific, listing incidents of Lightfoot stomping a cat on the floor and later giving a dog a lethal injection into its heart without using the required sedation. The officer's original mission had been to decipher the truth from the rumors behind the doors of the shelter. What he found instead was a torture chamber reflecting an unspeakable cruelty to already vulnerable animals.

Defense attorneys for the pair introduced witnesses who, as friends and family, didn't try to deny the charges.

Instead they painted a picture of men they'd come to trust while attending church and working with them in civic endeavors.

Yet, Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Paula Skahan appeared not to be swayed in doling out some form of punishment rather than bending to defense pleas for diversion.

A third former shelter employee, Billy Stewart spent most of the afternoon talking to his attorney Blake Ballin to decide if he was going to ask for a jury trail on the same animal cruelty charges. Ballin said Stewart has entered a not guilty plea and a trial date has been set for March 18, 2013.

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