Sylmar resident Riley Moss shows her support for Indy.


Dozens of protesters rallied in front of the steps of the Van Nuys courthouse Wednesday, Sept. 24, hoping for some judicial action on behalf of “Indy,” a young pit bull who was severely burned and left to die in an alley here last year.

They — and Indy — got their wish.

Suspect Carlos Duarte, appearing at a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, pled no contest on one count of felony cruelty to an animal and was sentenced to two years in state prison. He must surrender on Sept. 30 to begin the sentence.

According to prosecutor Phillip Stirling, Duarte will serve the first year locally in county jail, and the second year under supervised release. Duarte must attend 52 hours of narcotics or alcohol anonymous classes, and do 40 hours of work service for Cal-Trans. While incarcerated, Duarte must undergo psychological counseling.

Upon release of custody after the first year, Stirling said, Duarte returns to court to be assigned to attend animal cruelty and neglect counseling classes. He cannot own dogs or cats for 10 years.

A restitution hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3.

Duarte was accused of driving into a Van Nuys alley, taking the dog out of his van and leaving him there on July 5, 2013. The animal was severely burned. Earlier reports said Duarte allegedly wrapped fireworks onto the dog and ignited them, but District Attorney spokesman Ricardo Santiago said there is evidence is “inconclusive” as to who had caused the burns on the animal, and when it was done.

Indy, short for Independence, has undergone multiple surgeries and has been recovering with the help of Jenny Mandel of Santa Monica, who adopted the dog last December. Mandel, a veterinarian technician, worked at the Westlake Village Animal Hospital when the dog as brought in for treatment.

Mandel, who was in the courtroom, expressed “relief” at the plea bargain

“We have been at this for 8 months,” Mandel said. “I think we did the best we could by the justice system. We never thought we would be here. We are happy Indy is in a good home.” 

Because of the extent of the attack on Indy, “It’s hard to feel any justice is enough. So I look at this as a victory. It’s natural to have mixed feelings about the actual sentence, but I was thrilled there was anything. I am hoping this is a starting place for a voice for the voiceless. Indy’s case is over, but there remains the huge issue this country has with animal abuse.”

The case and Indy became a global cause célebre, thanks to social media. Although Wednesday’s crowd was small in stature their passion was loud and clear as they carried signs and chanted “Justice for Indy,” and “No excuse for animal abuse.”

Hailey Moss of Sylmar, an animal rescuer who went to the protest, said more should be done to confront and stop the abuse of animals.

“This is not something that is okay,” Moss said. “This is not something people are going to get away with because we’re not going to put up with it.

“Indy can’t speak. We must speak for him.”

Kelli Benson, self-employed in the fashion industry, drove down from Venice to take part in the protest.

“I’m also an animal advocate and conservationist. And this subject needs more attention,” she said. “We have animal cruelty legislation in all 50 states, so that’s a good thing. But people need to be aware of the abuse that’s happening to animals, because it is scientifically proven that if someone is abusing an animal, it can escalate into abusing human beings.”