RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A Victorville man accused of killing as many as 20 wild rabbits in Ontario pleaded not guilty today to five counts of animal cruelty.
A judge also turned down a prosecutor’s request to set bail for Shea Johnson, 22, who was arrested in May but released from jail on his “own recognizance” pending criminal charges. Today was his first appearance in West Valley Superior Court.
Johnson is accused of capturing wild rabbits at Fox Rent A Car, where he works as a driver, and killing the animals by hitting them with his fists or slamming them against walls and fences.
He was arrested after one of his co-workers secretly took video footage of the alleged abuse and presented it to police, authorities said.
After Johnson pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, Judge Raymond P. Van Stockum rejected Deputy District Attorney Deborah Ploghaus’ request to set Johnson’s bail at $50,000.
“He’s a danger to the community without some kind of bail being set,” Ploghaus said.
Johnson’s attorney, Alphonse Provinziano, told the judge that Johnson “is not going to re-offend in any way.”
Provinziano said Johnson has no prior criminal history, is enrolled in school, and continues to hold his job at Fox Rent A Car, 1776 E. Holt Blvd.
When Provinziano mentioned the business, Van Stockum interrupted him and asked, “Which is overrun with these animals?”
“Yes, your honor,” Provinziano said.
After the hearing, Provinziano said Johnson will not be available for an interview. He declined to discuss Johnson’s possible defense to the charges.
“At this time we’re investigating the case,” he said.
Johnson is next due in court Aug. 3.