NY hunter who killed, skinned, beheaded pet dogs in Ridgefield takes plea deal
The New York hunter accused of killing two pet dogs in Ridgefield, then skinning and beheading them, took a plea deal in Danbury Superior Court Friday. The case involves two Czech shepherds, Cimo and Lieben, who died on Nov. 18. “This is a compromise,” Danbury State’s Attorney David Applegate told the judge. “It's taken a lot to get to this point from both sides, and I do think that this is a fair disposition.”
Under the deal, Michael Konschak pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty and one count of interfering with an officer, both misdemeanors. Konschak entered Alford pleas, which means he disagrees with some of the alleged facts but believes he’d likely be convicted at trial.
Judge Thomas Saadi sentenced Konschak to three years of probation with several conditions, including no hunting and no firearms or weapons with projectiles. Konschak also can’t have unsupervised contact with animals except his own family pet, and he can’t get any new pets. The judge ordered Konschak pay the Caviola family a total of $7,700: $4,400 for the loss of their dogs, $3,000 for a tracker used in the month-long search for them, and $300 for a psychic hired to help find them. Konschak also must make a $2,000 donation to a Danbury area animal welfare group.
Konschak admitted to killing the dogs while bow-hunting in Ridgefield on Nov. 18 but told police he thought they were coyotes, which he still maintains.
“Taking him at his word, he struck a bow, and he killed the first dog believing it was in fact a coyote, and then he has asserted that the second dog charged him, and he defended himself by killing that second dog. Therein lies the reason for the Alford plea,” Applegate explained in court. “The state has always asserted and continues to assert today that this was not a reasonable decision made by Mr. Konschak, that he either knew—and I think there's evidence for that—or he should have known that these were shepherds.”
Cimo and Lieben had gotten out of the family’s yard that morning unbeknownst to their owners after it’s believed an animal damaged the fence. The Caviolas spent the next month searching for their dogs and launched a social media campaign. They only learned what happened to the dogs after someone connected to a taxidermist contacted them and pointed the finger at Konschak. That person also sent the family gruesome pictures of their dogs.
The case led to a massive public outcry after Konschak initially didn’t face animal cruelty charges. He was charged with tampering with evidence, forgery, interfering with an officer, archery hunting deer on private land/failing to have written consent from the landowner and violating wild game hunting regulations (behaviors and actions of hunters-domestic animals). Erin Caviola and her family pushed for that animal cruelty charge.
“For us, it was monumental,” Caviola told News 12 after court, adding that though she wished it had been a felony animal cruelty charge rather than a misdemeanor charge. But Caviola said the conditions that were part of the sentence really encapsulated what they wanted. The judge granted everything requested by the state.
Caviola thanked Applegate and Charlie Farfaglia, the court-appointed animal advocate on the case, for working hard to get her family justice.
“We're still going to live with this. This is not something that just goes away because he did plead guilty to animal cruelty, but for us, it's something that we felt strongly about,” Caviola said after court. “But for us, this does give us an opportunity to move on. I feel like our family has really emotionally been put through a lot and we look forward to having very happy memories with the dogs we do have in our lives.”
“The defendant has accepted responsibility today, and he will face enhanced restrictions on his life,” Applegate said during the hearing. He added that the mutilation that happened to the dogs after their deaths doesn’t apply to the animal cruelty statute. Applegate also warned the public that his office will not tolerate threats or harassment to Konschak and said the family was never seeking jail time in this case.
Konschak has no prior record. Early in the case he applied for a pre-trial probation program that would’ve wiped his record clean once approved. In March, the judge denied it, saying the allegations were too serious for accelerated rehabilitation.
Konschak’s attorney, Brian Romano, told the court Friday that his client could’ve applied for veteran AR since he served in the U.S. Air Force but chose not to because he wanted to take responsibility.
Romano also said his client had no objections to any of the conditions or the restitution and donation. Romano did ask the judge for a two-year period of probation rather than three, but the judge went with the state’s request.
Caviola told News 12 while this was the last time she’d be in court for this case, she’s not done helping in the fight against animal cruelty. Caviola said she plans to support victims in other cases moving forward.
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