The junior high school teacher who fed a sick puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students was found not guilty of animal cruelty, according to multiple reports.
Robert Crosland — a science teacher at Preston Junior High School in Preston, Idaho — had been charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty in June following the incident in March, according to KSTU.
On Friday afternoon, a jury of six found him not guilty after about 30 minutes of deliberation at a trial that included testimony from students and his son, Mario Crosland, KIDK reported.
In March, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Preston Police Department responded to a complaint about possible animal cruelty at the school, prosecutors said in a news release obtained by PEOPLE.
According to the Idaho Statesman, Crosland fed the puppy to a snapping turtle named Jaws in front of a small group of students after school hours.
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“The event,” the Preston School District said in a statement obtained by KSTU at the time, “was not a part of any school-directed program. We emphasize that at no time was the safety of students or staff compromised.”
PEOPLE’s calls and emails to the district and superintendent were not immediately returned on Sunday, but Crosland remained listed on the school’s directory website following the verdict.
The defense argued that the puppy was sick and close to death before Crosland put it in the turtle’s tank, while the prosecution said that the puppy may not have been sick and could have been able to survive, according to KIDK.
It was revealed during the trial that the puppy drowned before the turtle began to eat it, KIDK reported. After the puppy was placed in the tank full of water, it paddled for a short time before the turtle pulled it under water. The defense moved that the case be dismissed based on lack of evidence that the puppy suffered, but the judge ruled to let the jury decide, according to the outlet.
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In a recording of an interview with investigator Christopher McCormick, Crosland said, “I honestly thought I was doing the right thing by putting it out of its misery,” KIDK reported.
Crosland’s son Mario defended his father on the witness stand. “A guy who will do anything he can to save an animal. His whole life has been for animals, and seeing people try to destroy him when he’s has devoted his life to them. He has done all he can to help animals,” he said, according to KIDK.
Mario said he received the puppy from a farmer who said the animal was sick and dying, and that he later gave the puppy to his father, KIDK reported.
Crosland himself spoke out publicly for the first time since March at the trial. “I would just like to thank all of the support that I’ve received,” he said, according to the Statesman. “I’d like to thank this community for staying behind me. It’s really what got me through all of this.”
Calling the verdict a “rallying cry,” the Idaho Humane Society wrote in part on Facebook, “While we are outraged and saddened at the grievous error in judgment by the jury in this case, sadists who perpetuate acts of violence against helpless animals would be foolish to be emboldened by this recent and anomalous miscarriage of justice.”