A former Birmingham attorney who pleaded guilty to domestic violence and animal cruelty charges for slitting the throat of his family’s Staffordshire terrier, Rufus, was sentenced to probation.
But a judge ordered the former attorney to serve one day in jail for violating a sanction against having contact with his ex-wife.
James Stewart Robinson, 48, was sentenced to a five-year suspended sentence and three-years supervised probation on the class C felony cruelty to animals case and a one-year suspended sentence with two-years supervised probation on the misdemeanor domestic violence harassment charge, according to his attorney, John Wiley. The sentences will run concurrent.
The misdemeanor domestic violence charge had been appealed to the circuit court from Vestavia Municipal Court.
Robinson was sentenced by retired Clay County Circuit Judge John Rochester, who was specially appointed to hear the case.
Wiley explained one day jail sentence Rochester also imposed on Robinson.
A district attorney from St. Clair County, who also had been specially appointed in the case, brought up to Rochester prior to Friday’s sentencing that Robinson had emailed a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year message to his ex-wife at Christmastime, Wiley stated.
“Not threatening or ugly, really just Merry Christmas. But, (his ex-wife) didn’t like him (Robinson) contacting her even in that way, according to the DA, and she contacted them about it,” he stated.
Rochester had ordered Robinson at the time of his plea in July to have no contact with his ex-wife, Wiley stated.
“So, after sentencing, he (Rochester) ordered him (Robinson) to serve 24 hours in jail as a sanction for violating his previous order,” he stated.
“We are very happy to have this unfortunate incident finally resolved and we believe that the resolution reached is a good, fair and appropriate one,” Wiley stated in an email to AL.com.
One of the district attorneys from St. Clair County who was appointed to the case had not responded to a request for comment prior to publication of this story.
Robinson had pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree cruelty to a dog or cat, a class C felony, and one count of third-degree domestic violence.
The domestic violence charge relates to a photo of the dog with the slit throat he texted his now ex-wife and then leaving a voice mail to her stating “your day is coming girl,” according to court records.
Robinson has a plea deal that called for probation, but Rochester had ordered probation officers conduct a pre-sentencing report before he imposed a sentence.
During his plea hearing Robinson admitted that he “crossed a line” when he killed Rufus he had an addiction to Adderall, which he was taking for ADHD.
Rochester had pressed Robinson to say exactly what he had done in killing the dog. Robinson, after a brief pause, responded: “I killed him by slicing his throat.”
Robinson has been on inactive status as a lawyer since his arrest.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s animal cruelty investigator Dwight Sloan investigated the case.
Robinson also apologized for his actions after he pleaded guilty.
Robinson said he had been a recovering drug addict for almost a decade and had even been helping other lawyers dealing with drug addictions when in 2009 he developed an addiction to Adderall.
His wife filed for divorce in early 2012 and he said he became angry, went weeks without sleeping, and was on Adderall when he ended up killing Rufus, an American Staffordshire bull terrier. He said he loves animals and people.
“Rufus was a very loving dog and I am horrified that I crossed a line that never in a million years I thought I would cross,” Robinson, who sought treatment, said at the time of his plea.
Robinson had surrendered to police more than a week after he was charged with cruelty to a dog after a five-month probe that included canine exhumation; and an investigation at a Florida animal forensics lab.
He was suspended on an interim basis from the practice of law.