Andrew George Bassler, 36, was sentenced by 115th District Judge Lauren Parish on a plea bargain, said Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd.
Bassler admitted hanging the animal from a tree last June 27 behind his property on land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Byrd said. Neighbors found the animal, the prosecutor said.
The defendant initially claimed the donkey was already dead when he hung it, and that he did so in order to lure a panther that he believed had been hunting some of his other animals, said Byrd.
Bassler said he planned to kill the panther, the prosecutor said.
The defendant changed his story after a psychiatrist who examined him determined he was competent to stand trial and that he was not insane when the crime occurred, said Byrd.
However, Bassler gave no reason for the hanging and the state has no idea of his motive, the district attorney said.
Bassler had gone to county jail for a 2009 misdemeanor conviction of cruelty to a non-livestock animal—failing to adequately feed and water a dog—but had no other criminal record, said Byrd.
The defendant would have been eligible for probation had he chosen to go to trial, and a trial date was scheduled to be set the week of Jan. 14, Byrd noted.
The maximum sentence for the felony offense was 24 months in state jail. Bassler, who has been in the Upshur County Jail since late last June, received credit on his sentence for time already served, which amounted to about one-third of the 18-month term, the prosecutor said.
Besides imposing the jail term, Judge Parish ordered Bassler pay $610 restitution to Gilmer Animal Clinic for going to evaluate the donkey, writing a report, and evaluating the defendant’s other animals, Byrd said.
Gladewater attorney Barry Wallace represented Bassler, who has worked in general construction, but who stated he was currently unemployed, Byrd said.