A Middletown man charged in 2018 with molesting a guinea pig in a pet store parking lot was ordered to serve three years of supervised probation at a hearing Monday in Frederick County Circuit Court.
Scott Thomas Mackey, 34, of Hollow Road, was set to go to trial Monday but ended up entering an Alford plea of guilt to aggravated animal cruelty after a brief exchange between his lawyer, Jason Shoemaker, and Assistant State’s Attorney Catherine McDermid. An Alford plea means a person maintains their innocence but acknowledges that state prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Shoemaker originally wanted to mark the case as stet, which would have meant that the state’s attorney’s office would not take action on the case at this time, but McDermid declined to accept the motion.
Circuit Judge Edward G. Dwyer Jr. eventually sided with the prosecution after hearing arguments from both sides, prompting Shoemaker to enter the plea after consulting with Mackey.
After accepting the plea, Dwyer granted Mackey a term of probation before judgment, ordering that Mackey serve three years of supervised probation. Dwyer also ordered that Mackey not take any more animals into his home and that he submit to unannounced inspections by the Frederick County Division of Animal Control for the duration of his probation. If Mackey violates the terms of his probation, he could be subject to serve three years in jail.
Mackey was charged via criminal summons shortly after county sheriff’s deputies responded to the parking lot of the PetSmart in the 5400 block of Urbana Pike on Dec. 2, 2018, for a report of animal abuse. A passer-by told deputies and an Animal Control officer that she had seen Mackey bending and contorting the animal while he sat in his vehicle, according to court records and a previous story in The Frederick News-Post.
The woman also told officials that she watched Mackey repeatedly strike the animal and force his finger into its rectum. Mackey denied the allegations and has maintained his innocence throughout the case, stating that he was trying to help the animal after noticing it was impacted, which he said he had read was a common health problem for guinea pigs, according to court records.
The woman also took several cellphone videos of the alleged abuse, which Shoemaker himself asked the judge to view before deciding on a sentence. Shoemaker has argued that the videos are of low quality and ultimately do not show any crime being committed.
The guinea pig, identified in adoption paperwork as “Mr. Gravy,” was surrendered to Animal Control officers.
Mackey was initially charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, as well as one count each of animal cruelty and taking part in a perverted sexual practice with an animal.
Shoemaker indicated that Mackey did not wish to comment after Monday’s hearing, but later released a statement about the ruling after consulting with Mackey. While Shoemaker said he was “extraordinarily disappointed” with the state for contesting the motion to mark the case stet, which he said was long in negotiation in the case, he and Mackey were pleased that Mackey would not serve any time and would eventually be able to file to have the case expunged.
“At the end of the day, with the issues with the witness and the good results of his evaluation process, we are thankful that we were still successful in avoiding a trial but convincing the court to strike any conviction and allow Mr. Mackey the opportunity to eliminate this from his record in the future,” Shoemaker’s statement reads in part. “... In the grand scheme of things, [it was] an appropriate result to this case except for the state’s decision not to honor the original deal.”
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith also expressed some dissatisfaction with the ruling, pointing out that the state had asked Dwyer to sentence Mackey to a suspended sentence of three years and a three-year period of supervised probation.
“Unfortunately, with a probation before judgment, [Mackey is] going to be able to, at some point in time, be able to get this off his record, which is almost as disturbing as the facts of this case,” Smith said when reached for comment after the hearing.