SAN JOSE – A former telephone repairman pleaded innocent Friday to killing a woman’s little dog by throwing it into traffic after a minor fender bender.
Andrew Burnett, 27, faces up to three years in prison if convicted of killing, maiming or abusing an animal. He already is jailed on unrelated charges.
Trial is set to begin June 4.
The dog’s owner, Sara McBurnett, said a man became enraged when she got into a minor accident with him in February 2000 near the San Jose airport.
When he approached her car, McBurnett said, she rolled down her window to apologize. The man reached in and snatched her dog, Leo, threw him into oncoming traffic and fled.
“He was so aggressive,” McBurnett said at the time. “He had my dog before I could even react. It was like lightning.”
The small white dog, a bichon frise that McBurnett called “my best friend for 10 years,” died later at a veterinary hospital.
McBurnett was inundated with condolence messages from dog lovers around the country, and $110,000 in reward money was collected.
Police said for months there was not enough evidence to bring charges, but a Santa Clara County grand jury indicted Burnett on Thursday. Prosecutor Troy Benson said new evidence had surfaced, but he would not be more specific.
Burnett has been jailed since December on charges he stole thousands of dollars worth of equipment from his former employer, Pacific Bell, and lied to get out of a speeding ticket. He also faces three years behind bars in that case, Benson said.
Burnett appeared in court Friday with a public defender. Burnett said nothing other than to enter his plea, mostly staring straight ahead as he sat wearing an orange jail shirt and khakis.
Another hearing was scheduled for Wednesday to give Burnett an opportunity to retain his own attorney.