Two teenagers who drowned two newborn kittens were sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in detention, psychological counseling and probation until their 21st birthdays.
Family Court Judge William Voy's sentence for the 16-year-olds also included 200 hours of community service, an apology letter and a ban on social media access.
"I hope it does send a strong message that this type of behavior won't be tolerated in this community," said Gina Greisen, president of Nevada Voters for Animals and author of the felony animal cruelty law that the boys were arrested under.
Having already served 20 days in the county's juvenile detention center, the teens would be released after serving another 10 days. They then would be held under house arrest until school starts in late August, Voy ordered.
The boys were charged after neighbor Christine Ohm called police June 18 after catching them drowning the kittens on the 7900 block of Indian Cloud Avenue, near Cheyenne Avenue and Cimarron Road.
Two days earlier, a gray cat had given birth in Ohm's backyard to two kittens that disappeared.
Later, while cleaning her pool, Ohm heard animal cries and boys' laughter coming over the 10-foot fence that separates her yard from the backyard of her neighbor's home.
She used a ladder to look over the fence and saw the teens holding a kitten in a cup of water. The other one was dead, she said.
Police recommended two felony charges of animal cruelty and gross misdemeanor counts of conspiracy. Cruelty to an animal can be prosecuted as a felony, even on the first offense, because of a law championed last year by Nevada Voters for Animals.
The teens' case was the second known case to be brought under the new law and the first in Southern Nevada, Greisen said.
The Review-Journal is not identifying the teens because of their ages.
Before the hearing, about 15 people stood along Pecos Road to rally support for a tough punishment.
They held signs with slogans such as "Justice for Animals," "Stop Animal Cruelty," and "Good Neighbors Don't Kill Kittens."
In court, the teens stood next to their lawyers with their hands shackled at their waists as they admitted to one count of animal cruelty.
They wore matching yellow T-shirts and navy blue sweatpants and said little outside of the "Yes, your honor" answers to Voy's questions about understanding their rights.
High-powered criminal defense lawyer John Momot said his client "has definitely learned his lesson."
The other boy's lawyer, Tom Ericsson, said his client "is very remorseful for what he's done."
Both lawyers said they agreed with the probation department's recommendation for 12 months of probation with no further detention.
Prosecutor Michael Watson told the judge about a stack of emails and 20-some phone calls his office received in the days leading up to the hearing.
"The community has asked the court to take it seriously," Watson said in asking for 60 days of detention and probation until the teens turned 21.
Before issuing the sentence, Voy noted that state laws distinguishing felonies and misdemeanors have little bearing in juvenile court, where minors are treated as juvenile delinquents, not criminal defendants.
However, the Legislature showed its intent to reinforce the idea that such acts won't be tolerated.
Voy's sentence also included a suspended sentence to a state youth camp, six months of counseling and no pets in their homes.
He noted that the psychiatric evaluations of the two teens were "very positive reports."
Animal activist Stacia Newman, who had pushed for the maximum sentence possible, said the teens' actions were deliberate and intentional.
She said she was satisfied with the sentence given the limits of the juvenile justice system.
"This will give them a chance," she said of the teens, "and I hope they take it seriously."
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.