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Published: Tuesday, 6/24/2014

Man convicted of dogfighting can file appeal

Steward Steward
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

A Toledo man convicted last year of dogfighting has been granted permission to file a delayed appeal.

The Ohio 6th District Appeals Court approved 22-year-old Carl Steward’‍s request earlier this month and named Toledo lawyer Diana Bittner as his attorney for the appeal. Ms. Bittner has not filed a brief yet, but she has indicated in court documents that grounds for appeal may include ineffective counsel, insufficient evidence, and sentencing matters related to Steward’‍s original trial.

Ms. Bittner declined to comment to The Blade, citing a need to become more acquainted with the case.

In October, Steward, who court records say lives at 1545 Avondale Ave., was found guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court of five felony counts of dogfighting. He was acquitted on one count relating to a young female dog because she had no fighting scars and had not been bred.

Toledo police in January, 2013, discovered Steward’‍s six “pit bulls” caged and chained to the floor in an otherwise vacant, boarded-up house in the 200 block of South Fearing Boulevard.

Steward filed a handwritten notice in April requesting a delayed appeal, saying he had asked for an appeal but a notice was never filed. Though offenders typically have 30 days file a notice of appeal, an individual can petition the court to accept a delayed notice.

Steward spent the first six months of his sentence at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker and is now at the Correctional Treatment Facility in Toledo for six months. That will be followed by three months in Lucas County’s work-release program and three months on electronic monitoring.

The trial court also placed Steward on community control for five years, assigned him 100 hours of community service, and required him to undergo random drug testing and maintain employment. He was also banned from owning another dog and ordered to pay $12,030 in restitution to the Lucas County Canine Care & Control, which housed the dogs since they were seized.

The “pit bulls” were spared by the judge and allowed to be evaluated for possible rehabilitation, the first ex-fighters in Lucas County's history to be given a second chance who came to be known as the “Fearing Six.”

Until 2012, “pit bulls” were deemed inherently vicious under Ohio law and were subsequently killed.

The only male in the group and one of the five females were killed in December. Julie Lyle, director of the county shelter, said the pair’s severe dog aggression and the male’‍s intolerance of handling resulted in her decision to euthanize them.

The Lucas County Pit Crew took in three of the survivors. The final dog was transferred to a foster home in Utah with Jasmine’s House, a rescue associated with a group of canines known as “Vicktory Dogs” seized from NFL player Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels in 2007.

The three Pit Crew dogs have been successfully adopted, while the fourth in Utah is still up for adoption. Together, they are now known locally as the “Freedom Four,” and a Facebook page has been created for the quartet using that moniker.

Contact Alexandra Mester: amester@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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