INDEPENDENCE – A Buchanan County jury las week found Jason O’Neil Johnson, 42, of Independence, guilty of animal torture. As he was led out of the courtroom on Thurday, he told family members “Thanks a lot” and now faces another charge of violating a protection order.
The animal cruelty charge arose from an incident on May 17, 2019, according to court documents. Johnson held down the family dog, Daisy, and repeatedly beat her with a belt and closed fists because she had chewed on a pair of sunglasses Johnson left out.
Johnson made his son record a portion of the beating and send the video to Johnson’s other children to show them what happens when they fail to secure Daisy properly in her kennel.
Pursuant to the Code of Iowa, a person is guilty of animal torture, regardless of whether the person is the owner of the animal, if the person inflicts upon the animal severe physical pain with a depraved or sadistic intent to cause prolonged suffering or death.
Animal torture, first offense, is an aggravated misdemeanor and carries a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine between $625 and $6,250. Additionally, anyone convicted of animal torture must submit to a psychological evaluation and treatment and complete a community work requirement, which may include service at an animal shelter or pound.
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled for a later date.
Court action is pending on additional charges related to the case, including one tied to May 22 – five days after the animal torture incident – when officers from the Independence Police Department and Buchanan County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call about a fight in the road at 8th Ave. NE and 9th St. NE in Independence. Upon their arrival, they found Johnson had already left the scene on his motorcycle. Officers learned that Johnson had confronted his son, 17, about the release of the video of the dog, Daisy.
According to the arrest report filed in the Iowa District Court in and for Buchanan County, Johnson violently assaulted his son, “…twice punch[ed]…on the left side of his head, choking him and picked him up and slammed him to the ground and then wrestled around on the ground.” The son tried to defend himself. The son and his mother decided to go to the emergency room to have the injuries looked at, including a scraped knee, a sore right hand, and a sort left side of the head. A no-contact order and an arrest warrant were requested and issued.
A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 9 on the charge of assault causing bodily injury or mental illness.
After the animal cruelty verdict was read on Thursday, Aug. 8, Johnson’s lawyer advised him he could leave and that he – the lawyer – would contact Johnson at a later date. Present in the court were Johnson’s ex-wife and his minor son from the May incidents. As Johnson exited the courtroom, he looked over at his ex-wife and son and said, “Thanks a lot.” Johnson then looked at Officer [Chris] Boos, County Attorney Shawn Harden, and Officer Christopher Cass and again said, “Thanks a lot.”
By looking at his son and speaking to him, the decision was made that Johnson had violated an active no-contact order. He was placed in handcuffs and walked over to the Buchanan County Jail, where he said, “I did not know I was violating the no-contact order by saying one word.”