A Baltimore County judge sentenced former Ravens player Terrence Cody on Thursday to nine months in jail in an animal cruelty case that drew interest across the country.
Cody, 27, was convicted in November of multiple misdemeanors in connection with the death of his dog, Taz, last year, as well as two misdemeanor drug charges. Prosecutors said Taz starved to death.
Cody faced the possibility of more than two years of incarceration. More than 5,000 people signed an online petition urging Judge Judith C. Ensor to impose the maximum sentence.
Ensor said that she did not discount the petition but that she had to make an independent decision based on the case.
"My responsibility is to listen and to make the best decision I can," she said at the sentencing hearing.
Defense attorney Joe Murtha acknowledged that Cody neglected Taz but said that Cody loved the animal and didn't intend for it to die. He said that Cody was emotionally incapable of caring for the dog and that he suffers from depression.
"His level of depression is so significant that he's become just isolated," said Murtha, who added that his communication with his client has been limited because of Cody's depression.
Prosecutor Adam Lippe discounted the idea that Cody was depressed. He argued for the maximum amount of jail time — 905 days.
"I'm sure every defendant awaiting sentencing is depressed," Lippe said.
Lippe said during the trial that the dog starved to death at Cody's former home in Reisterstown over a period of at least a month.
Cody testified at the trial that he believed Taz was suffering from worms.
Cody spent $8,000 to buy and import Taz, a Canary mastiff, from Spain. He took the animal to a Reisterstown animal hospital a few hours before it died. The dog, which once weighed at least 100 pounds, was down to less than 50 pounds at that point.
Cody — whose nickname at the University of Alabama was Mount Cody — was drafted by the Ravens as a defensive lineman in 2010. The team released him when he was indicted last year.
After the trial last year, Cody was acquitted of two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty. Ensor, who presided over the bench trial, said Thursday she was convinced that Cody did not torture Taz intentionally.
"I remain firm" in that belief, she said.
The judge also sentenced Cody to probation before judgment for illegally possessing an alligator and for possessing drug paraphernalia. Police found a gas-mask bong and a 6-foot-long green glass bong in the home.
She imposed suspended sentences for several counts, including a marijuana charge. She also sentenced Cody to 18 months of supervised probation and said he must undergo mental health treatment. During the probation period, he is not allowed to own or possess an animal.
Cody will serve the sentence at the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson.
Cody's girlfriend, Kourtney J. Kelley, 28, was also convicted in the animal cruelty case. She was sentenced last month to 60 days and has since been paroled. She was found guilty of five counts in connection with neglecting Taz.
Cody, wearing a black hoodie and jeans, briefly addressed the court, saying he accepted responsibility. He also said he believed Kelley should not have been punished in the case.
Kelley attended the hearing and cried at times during the proceedings.
Cody and Kelley have been living in Georgia, Murtha said. They have two children together.
"It's been a devastating experience for him and for his family," Murtha said outside the courthouse.
Lippe said he was satisfied with the sentence. He said Cody had other dogs that were "fat and happy," but for some reason he treated Taz differently.
"I can't explain to you why he decided to kill this animal," Lippe said. "It makes no sense at all."