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Jury Convicts Man in Road Rage Case

By RON HARRIS, Associated Press Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Sara McBurnett says she doesn't believe in closure, but she breathed a sigh of relief when a man was convicted of tossing her small dog to its death on a busy highway.

``It doesn't bring Leo back, of course, but at least Leo had his day,'' McBurnett said after the verdict Tuesday. ``One cruel person has been (held) accountable for their cruelty.''

A jury convicted Andrew Burnett, 27, on felony animal cruelty charges for killing the fluffy, white bichon frise last year in a fit of road rage. He faces up to three years in prison for the attack, which outraged dog lovers.

The defendant sat motionless as the verdict was read, pausing only to wink and say ``I love you'' to his fiancee, seated in the front row. Burnett, who never took the stand, is scheduled to be sentenced July 13.

McBurnett and other witnesses testified that after a minor traffic accident in February 2000, Burnett yelled at her, reached through her open car window, grabbed the dog and hurled it into oncoming traffic. The 10-year-old pet was struck seconds later.

``It wasn't just a dog to me,'' she said. ``For me it was my child. He killed my baby right in front of me.''

Burnett's attorney, Marc Garcia, said his client instinctively snatched the dog from the car after it bit him. He said the court of public opinion worked against his client.

``The deck was so stacked against him in this case from day one,'' Garcia said.

Prosecutor Troy Benson said Burnett was ``the only person in the whole world'' who would think what he did to Leo was reasonable.

``No ordinary person would have done this,'' he said.

Authorities released a sketch of a suspect in the case in March 2000, but the investigation stalled after McBurnett failed to pick Burnett out of two photo lineups.

Police said an anonymous e-mail tipped them to Burnett. He had been jailed since Jan. 4 on charges connected to the disappearance of a repair van from his employer, Pacific Bell. The van was filled with $68,000 worth of equipment. He also faces four charges of perjury for allegedly lying to authorities to get out of speeding tickets.

Dog lovers and others had donated $120,000 in reward money for help in finding Leo's killer. Santa Clara County officials plan to meet with the county's Humane Society next week to determine how to distribute the reward.