Judge revokes home confinement for man charged with animal cruelty

Justin Ryan Lancianese, 36, of Rivesville, looks down as Marion County Judge Patrick N. Wilson revokes his home confinement sentence Friday.

FAIRMONT — Once sentenced to only home confinement for animal cruelty, a Rivesville man will now serve time in jail.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Patrick N. Wilson imposed the original underlying sentence to Justin Ryan Lancianese, 36, on Friday morning. Lancianese was sentenced for taking his Yorkie dog and placing it in a cooler bag along with a novel and a drug card inside, and tossing the dog near the Rivesville Power Plant in July 2018.

Lancianese looked down in the courtroom Friday morning as Wilson announced his decision.

Lancianese was given credit for 8 months already served in pre-trial incarceration. Officials said he may serve up to four months incarceration because he missed his appointment last month to start his home confinement sentence that was imposed after he pleaded guilty in the case.

The home confinement sentence had been an alternative to incarceration that was offered to Lancianese at his sentencing in November.

On July 30, 2018, an investigation found Lancianese left the dog to die without food, water or shelter.

After being rescued, the dog was later adopted by Casey Johnson and named “Winston.” The community rallied around the Yorkie, with many people wearing “Justice for Winston” T-shirts and often showing up in court to show support for a stiff sentence.

Wilson said Lancianese will get credit for time served, which his defense attorney, John Rogers, said amounts to about seven and a half to eight months.

Rogers said Lancianese will be eligible for parole in a year. When the approximately eight months of time served is applied, however, Lancianese will be eligible for parole in four months, according to Rogers.

“Since he’s done the eight months, approximately, he’ll have four months to do…then he’ll be eligible for parole at that time,” Rogers said after Friday’s hearing.

Rogers didn’t yet know where Lancianese will serve his time.

“Since it’s only four months, I don’t know if they’ll move him out of the (North Central) regional (jail) or not,” Rogers said. “He may just do it there.”

He said Lancianese will have to meet with the parole board. When asked about the factors that are made in deciding whether someone gets parole, he said, “a lot of it comes in from accepting responsibility, things you’ve done since that time to kind of correct the issues that were underlying when the sentence was imposed.”

Rogers wasn’t happy with the outcome Friday.

Rogers said they were “just displeased with the result for today.”

Lancianese waived both his preliminary and final revocation hearings Friday, and admitted to the allegations that were contained in a revocation petition that stated he did not appear at 9 a.m. Nov. 12 to begin home confinement. The petition was filed by the officer in charge of home confinement.

“I did not show up at 9 o’clock,” Lancianese told Judge Wilson, who said the court accepted his admission.

The home confinement sentence had been an alternative to incarceration that was offered to Lancianese at his sentencing last month.

Marion County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Dennis B. Kittle said it was the state’s position that not only did Lancianese not show up at 9 a.m. for his home confinement appointment, but he didn’t show up at 8:15 a.m. as had been subsequently requested by a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Kittle, Lancianese then called and said he would be there at 12:30 p.m., but didn’t show up until 1:45 p.m. “at his own free will.” He said Lancianese feared being incarcerated, and asked if he was going to be arrested.

Wilson could have punished Lancianese with a first tier of sanctions of up to 60 days in jail, according to Kittle. Rogers asked the judge for these sanctions, though the judge chose not to impose them in favor of the underlying sentence.

Rogers said Lancianese did not show up for his hime confinement appointment because he did not have the money to pay the initial home confinement start-up fee of $405, and didn’t understand the terms of payment. According to Kittle, the $405 is a home confinement monthly monitoring fee.

But Kittle told the judge that Lancianese should have still showed up for his home confinement appointment. Kittle said Lancianese never stated he didn’t have the money. Kittle said it was clear that Lancianese was “trying to make excuses to the court to keep his rear end out of jail.”

“I stand at the mercy of the court,” Lancianese told Judge Wilson. He said he was begging for one more chance, and could abide by the rules of home confinement as they are ordered.

Wilson brought up several concerns that he expressed previously about Lancianese’s credibility, including why there was “no answer” from Lancianese as to why Winston was zipped up and left in a place he couldn’t be found, if Lancianese had wanted Winston to be discovered.

The judge questioned why Lancianese didn’t take the Yorkie to a shelter, give him to someone else or release him, if Lancianese was truly concerned about the dog’s safety.

At the sentencing hearing last month, an expert witness, Edward Baker, testified that Lancianese was actually trying to save the dog by putting it in the cooler bag. He said Lancianese thought about burning his apartment and killing himself with an overdose.

He said that Lancianese didn’t want the dog in the apartment when he burned it.

Baker evaluated Lancianese and testified previously that Lancianese has post traumatic stress disorder that was exacerbated by use of various drugs, including methamphetamine, marijuana, buprenorphine and benzodiazepines.

Baker said Lancianese also has had personality syndromes, has heard voices, has been paranoid, developed a suicidal complex and has felt hopeless and in despair.

On Friday, Wilson also brought up a statement that a woman provided to police in which she said Lancianese told her that the reason Lancianese took his actions was because the dog was ill and he couldn’t take care of it. That statement had previously been entered into court as evidence.

“At the end of your hearing, your credibility was low in this court’s opinion,” Wilson told Lancianese Friday.

Wilson, however, said he has to look at both sides, which he said he did.

When he offered the alternative home confinement sentence previously, Wilson said he took into consideration testimony by Baker, the expert witness, who said Lancianese was unlikely to commit such an offense again. The judge said he also considered the fact that Lancianese had a “very minor” criminal record.

Despite Lancianese’s professed misunderstanding, the judge told Lancianese that he had clearly let him know what he expected of him, and said Lancianese told him he could do it.

Under the alternative home confinement sentence that has been offered to Lancianese, he was required to complete 200 hours of community service. The judge told Lancianese Friday he gave him a chance to give back and prove himself to the community in this respect. He also said that not locking him up and having him do home confinement was a savings to the taxpayers.

Wilson told Lancianese that he could have contacted his attorney if he didn’t understand something about the payments required of him, or filed a motion in court if he had problems with paying the money. He said Lancianese could have come in and said, “Judge, here are my issues.” The judge said they could have discussed it.

The judge also pointed out that he gave Lancianese time when he didn’t show up for home confinement at the appointed time, not issuing a warrant until the afternoon.

He said not appearing for the home confinement appointment was the same as absconding.

After the proceeding, Johnson, Winston’s owner, said he was surprised by the judge’s decision.

“I really thought the judge was going to reach out and give him another hand again and reassign the home confinement, so I really thought he did a little bit better,” he said. “But knowing the fact that he might be out in four months, that’s better than what we had before. And it is up to five years, so they still have the choice to keep him a little longer, but that’s going to be up to the parole board, that’s not something I can handle or be in control of at all.”

“I feel he should get a little bit more time than what he’s already served,” said Charlie Anderson, fellow Winston supporter who attended the hearing.

Reach Eric Hrin at (304) 367-2549.

Eric Hrin can be reached at 304-367-2549, or ehrin@timeswv.com.

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