Woman sentenced to 4 years for fatal dog mauling
SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- A judge sentenced Marjorie Knoller, whose dog mauled a neighbor to death last year, to four years in state prison for involuntary manslaughter Monday.
"I think the evidence is overwhelming that you are guilty," said Superior Court Judge James Warren.
Last month, the judge overturned a jury's second-degree murder conviction of Knoller, prompting outrage from the victim's friends and family.
Diane Whipple, 33, was mauled to death January 26, 2001, in the hallway of her apartment building as Knoller watched. Knoller testified that she tried in vain to stop the attack by the larger of her two Presa Canario dogs, Bane.
Knoller's husband, Robert Noel, already is serving a four-term prison term.
Knoller, 46, also received three years in prison for owning a mischievous dog that kills, but the judge stayed that sentence pending successful completion of the involuntary manslaughter term. Once that occurs, Warren said, the stay will become permanent.
Knoller has 714 days of credit, or about two years. She was ordered to pay $5,200 to a victims' indemnity fund, and she and her husband must pay $6,800 in restitution to Whipple's domestic partner, Sharon Smith.
Smith burst into tears after the sentencing, as friends hugged her. Knoller, wearing an orange prison uniform, showed no emotion and made no statements in court.
Citing the seriousness of the crime, Warren denied Knoller probation.
"Defendant Knoller, along with her husband, the co-defendant, knowingly inserted into society two massive, dangerous and unpredictable dogs with the knowledge that at some point in time somewhere somebody was going to get hurt by these dogs," Warren said.
"You knew those dogs were dangerous, you knew you could not control them and you took them outside anyway," he said. "You had neither the physical or the mental ability to control the dog Bane."
The judge, however, said he believed Knoller did not intentionally cause harm to Whipple.
In imposing the sentence, Warren said that while there were no mitigating circumstances related to the crime, he recognized that Knoller had no previous criminal record, she practiced law and did pro bono work.
However, "the court finds there is no show of remorse for the crime that was committed or responsibility for it," Warren said. The judge accused Knoller of committing perjury "over and over" -- including before the grand jury -- in an effort to deny responsibility for the crime.
The couple had maintained that the attack by the Presa Canario was a tragic accident, but jurors heard from several witnesses who said the dogs had previously either lunged at them or exhibited aggressive behavior when they were with Noel.
During the five-week trial, moved to Los Angeles because of pre-trial publicity, prosecutors described a horrific attack in which Whipple was bitten all over her body -- her throat ripped, her clothes torn off -- by the dog.
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