FOUR MEN ARRAIGNED IN TURTLE KILLING CASE

Two sets of brothers face variety of charges

ROBERT GAVIN STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D5

Date: Thursday, December 24, 2009

ALBANY -- Two sets of siblings who allegedly tortured a turtle in Knox -- killing the reptile in an explosion captured on videotape -- were arraigned Wednesday on felony weapon and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in Albany County Court.


Jeffrey Robert, who turned 24 Wednesday, is charged in an eight-count indictment along with his brother, Michael Robert, 22, Tyson Pincher, 26, and his brother, Seth Pincher, 17, all of Knox.


Authorities say the defendants tortured the snapping turtle on Knox-Cave Road on March 1, then attached a pipe bomb to its back and watched the reptile explode.


A person with knowledge of the case said they nicknamed the animal "Victim." And police have earlier said the group asked at one point, "Do you think he knows he's about to die?"


The alleged abusers were rounded up in September as Albany County Sheriff's Department investigators searched the house of Jeffrey Robert, a suspect in an Internet scam case. The police found a videotape showing the turtle torture.


At the time, police said the suspects had been experimenting with different explosives and downloaded information about chemical bomb-making on the Internet.


As the defendants waited for their appearances before acting Supreme Court Justice Dan Lamont, the Roberts brothers sat near one another in the gallery -- at times flashing smiles. The pair face up to seven years in state prison on charges of third-degree weapon possession, conspiracy and torturing an animal.


The Pincher brothers face up to 14 years in prison because they allegedly possessed three more bombs that police found on Sept. 18.


All four pleaded not guilty.


Terence L. Kindlon, who represented the Pincher brothers at the arraignment, questioned whether the alleged explosives were bombs or firecrackers.


If the latter, he noted, it would be a fireworks misdemeanor case instead of a violent felony case that cannot be pleaded down without prison time.


"It is just really overreaching on the part of the D.A.'s office," said Kindlon, calling the indictment "overcharged, reckless and thoughtless," as well as "close to being insane."


In response, District Attorney David Soares issued a statement reading: "These young men are presumed innocent and Mr. Kindlon will have an opportunity to make his argument to a jury. As for this offices' decision to indict cases like this one? it's very simple: The idea of young men searching the Internet for instructions for building explosives and then constructing them is unsettling. The gall to then kill a small animal is cowardly and criminal."


The defendants are all free on bail.