Gardner gets five years, nine months for animal cruelty, drug pleas

Posted: Dec. 29, 2011 5:35 pm Updated: Jan. 12, 2012 6:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A Quincy man was sentenced Thursday to five years and nine months in prison after pleading guilty to animal torture and drug counts.

Destin Gardner, 37, was arrested in October and charged with nine counts of felony animal torture, owning an animal for sport fighting, and misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, depicting animal cruelty, being a felon in possession of certain dogs and endangering the life or health of a child. Twelve of the 14 counts were dismissed after he pleaded guilty to one count of animal torture and one count of owning an animal for sport fighting, both felonies.

Gardner was accused of videotaping his dog attacking a raccoon, then putting the video on YouTube. The videos have been removed from the popular video-sharing website.

He also pleaded guilty to delivery of a controlled substance. First Assistant State's Attorney Gary Farha said Gardner was involved in June with giving a West Central Illinois Task Force informant hydrocodone pills for $60.

Gardner got five years and nine months for the drug offense, five years for the animal torture and three years for the sport fighting count. All sentences will be served at the same time.

Gardner was accused of turning a Jack Russell terrier loose on a number of animals, including a rat, hedgehog, groundhog, opossum, snake and raccoon. Another Jack Russell terrier joined the first dog to attack another raccoon and opossum, the charging document states.

The first dog was bitten by a rat and also was bitten in the eye by a snake, the charging document states.

The charge of endangering the life or health of a child alleges that Gardner "actively involved his child and stepchildren in the making of animal torture videos," the charging document states.

He was accused of having 16 videos depicting animal cruelty and uploading them to YouTube. He is also accused of training his dogs to fight, torture and kill animals while he videotaped the encounters for posting online.

Gardner apologized when asked by Judge William Mays if he had anything to say before Mays concurred with the plea arrangement and sentencing.

Gardner's wife, Karen Gardner, 36, faces charges of felony animal torture, and misdemeanor child endangerment and cruelty to animals. She is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Feb. 1, but Farha said she will be offered a misdemeanor count instead.

Farha said Destin Gardner has prior burglary convictions in Missouri and theft and aggravated battery convictions in Illinois.