TOMS RIVER — Les Brandt stood outside of Superior Court Judge James Blaney’s courtroom Tuesday afternoon and could not believe what she had just heard.Moments earlier, Blaney overturned the six-month jail sentences of Shauna Kennedy-Morgan and Keith Morgan, the former owners of an abused cocker spaniel named Sammy.
Instead, Blaney sentenced Keith Morgan, 56, to 90 days house arrest with five days of community service and Shauna Kennedy-Morgan, 43, to a year probation with 30 days of community service for their involvement in the animal cruelty case.
“Everything that the judge did was absolutely wrong,’’ the 60-year-old Brandt of Manahawkin said, as she held a photo of the dog. “This sends the wrong message. It sends a message that you can abuse animals and nothing is going to happen to you.’’
The Morgans, who live on Sawmill Road in Brick, were sentenced Nov. 18 to six months in jail by Brick Municipal Court Judge Robert M. LePore.
As Blaney announced the new sentences, the approximately 35 supporters of Sammy inside the court room voiced their displeasure. One lady was asked to leave after making an outburst and another women left the court room audibly cursing about the judge’s ruling.
“This is ridiculous,’’ said Martin Mondoker, 51, of Colts Neck. “This is a disgrace. This judge should be gone.’’
Blaney said Keith Morgan’s health issues, which include diabetes, were a factor in reducing his sentence.
Kevin F. Sheehy, Keith Morgan’s attorney, described Morgan’s life since the incident as a “tortured existence.”
“He’s a social outcast,” Sheehy said. “He can’t leave his home without being harassed, without people threatening him. These are things that aren’t going to end today. They aren’t going to end when his sentence is up.”
Before Blaney announced his decision, Keith Morgan read a statement apologizing to Sammy and his wife. As Morgan read statement, many people in the crowd shook their heads with disdain.
“Sammy was a wonderful dog that didn’t deserve this,’’ Keith Morgan said. “Sammy, I’m sorry. Again I’m sorry for what I have done.”
Last March, Keith Morgan was hailed a hero after he claimed he found the dog in a plastic garbage bag on the side of a road in Wall and took the animal to the Associated Humane Societies shelter in Tinton Falls.
An investigation by the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals led to charges against the Morgans when it was learned the couple owned the dog and had abandoned it.
The cocker spaniel was emaciated, matted and unable to walk, authorities said. Sammy has since been adopted by a family who has remained anonymous.
Victor “Buddy” Amato, the Monmouth County SPCA’s chief law enforcement officer, was visibly disappointed with Blaney’s decision to rescind the jail sentence.
“It is what it is,” Amato said after the hearing.