Chiropractor guilty of animal cruelty for 2019 shooting of dog in Monessen

·2 min read

Sep. 23—A Rostraver chiropractor was convicted Thursday of two misdemeanor offenses in connection with the shooting of a dog two years ago in Monessen.

A Westmoreland County jury deliberated nearly 11 hours over two days before reaching a mixed verdict that found James Scirotto, 48, guilty of animal cruelty and reckless endangerment counts. The jury acquitted Scirotto of one felony count of aggravated animal cruelty related to the torture of a Labrador mixed-breed dog he claimed terrorized his family while attending his mother-in-law's 70th birthday party on Oct. 1, 2019.

The jury also found Scirotto not guilty of a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and failed to reach a verdict on a second felony charge of aggravated animal cruelty for causing serious bodily injury to the canine. Judge Christopher Feliciani declared a mistrial related to that count.

Assistant District Attorney Adam Barr said a final decision has not been made whether to seek a new trial against Scirotto for the unresolved charge.

"I'd be hard pressed to retry the case," Barr said. "I'm just glad the jury took this case seriously and carefully considered the evidence."

Prosecutors claim Scirotto pursued and hunted down Honda, who had escaped from a backyard a few doors down from where Scirotto and his family gathered for the birthday party. The dog's owners told jurors that Honda was a calm and friendly dog that had never attacked or injured anyone, including their own young children.

Scirotto, his wife and other defense witnesses described Honda as a vicious dog that barked, snarled and lunged at adults and children as he terrorized the neighborhood.

"It's obvious the jury didn't believe he was justified in his actions despite no evidence against our position that the defendant was justified," said defense attorney Christopher Blackwell.

Blackwell said it is unclear whether the guilty verdicts will endanger Scirotto's chiropractor's license. The status will ultimately be determined by an independent review conducted by a state investigatory board, he said.

Scirotto, who will be sentenced in about three months, declined to comment on the case as he left the courthouse on Thursday.

Prosecutors argued during the four-day trial that Scirotto unnecessarily fired as many as seven shots in two separate volleys from a .40 caliber handgun. One shot hit the dog's rear leg. Honda underwent emergency surgery and survived the shooting, according to the dog's owners.

Honda's owner, Chad Layhue, said he and his family were pleased with the verdict.

"We are happy to have justice for our dog, and our children that love their dog unconditionally," Layhue said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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