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Former Fairfield official sentenced to 17 months in prison for animal cruelty

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

News 12 Connecticut | December 7, 2023 | By: Marissa Alter

A former Fairfield official was sentenced Thursday to 17 months in prison for killing one cat, torturing another, and threatening police.

Ray Neuberger, who previously served on the town’s Representative Town Meeting, appeared in Bridgeport Superior Court where he pleaded guilty to two counts of felony animal cruelty and one count of threatening under the Alford doctrine. That means Neuberger doesn’t agree with all the facts but acknowledges there's enough evidence to convict him.

Under the plea deal, Judge Elizabeth Reid sentenced Neuberger to six years in prison, suspended after he served 17 months, followed by four years of probation with several conditions. He also must pay restitution to the animal hospital where the injured cat was treated.

Fairfield police arrested Neuberger three times in five months. In the first instance, they said he killed his then-girlfriend’s cat by dousing it in bleach and beating it. In the second, police said Neuberger used chemicals to burn another of her cats, causing serious injuries and its tail to be amputated. The most recent arrest came in March.

In court, Assistant State’s Attorney Andres Bermudez Hallstrom said Neuberger threatened the detective on the animal cruelty cases, saying “he would make him pay,” and “threatened to inflict chemical burns on police officers causing others to fear for imminent physical injury.”

Neuberger was first charged with animal cruelty in 2018 for allegedly abusing his ex-fiancé’s two dogs. Police said he poured boiling water on one and broke the other’s ribs. He served 43 days in jail and had to make a $25,000 donation to the Bridgeport Animal Shelter, then was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a probation program that allowed the charges to be dismissed and his record to remain clean.

“But here we are again, Your Honor. Same type of crime, two animal cruelty cases, evidence that Mr. Neuberger could not and did not take advantage of the court's initial generosity,” said attorney Kenneth Bernhard in court ahead of sentencing. Bernhard is the animal advocate that was assigned to the case. He was also part of the court proceedings in 2018.

“While Mr. Gulash wants the court to believe that his client's crimes are not evidence of who he is but rather the outcome of something like excessive drinking, it no longer makes a difference. Mr. Neuberger is what he does. And he is a serial animal abuser,” Bernhard told the judge.

Neuberger's been in custody since March when a judge raised his bond by $1 million dollars after a search warrant for his phone allegedly turned up very concerning information related to the threats made against police.

In court, his attorney said that Neuberger has been held at the highest security facility where he's taken big steps to address his issues.

“He's going to attempt to approach his future positively, to do whatever he needs to do to prove to the court, to prove to the community that he's worth any chance the court gives,” attorney John Gulash stated.

In sentencing Neuberger, Judge Reid said she hopes this time he won’t be back.

Reid mandated several probation conditions including no pets, no unsupervised contact with animals and no weapons. Neuberger can’t have contact with his ex-girlfriend and has to stay away from the police department unless he has a legitimate reason. He also must complete the Family Violation Education Program and participate in an animal cruelty prevention and education course called Benchmark Animal Rehabilitative Curriculum. In addition, the judge ordered a mental health evaluation and treatment, along with an alcohol abuse evaluation.

Bernhard publicly thanked the state’s attorney’s office for taking these animal cruelty charges seriously. “Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals usually don't stop there. Many of them move on to acts of violence towards humans,” he stated.

Members of the animal advocacy group Desmond’s Army were in court and called this a win.

“I'm very appreciative of all the work that was done by our advocate and the state's attorney,” Candace Bouchard, Vice President of Desmond’s Army, told News 12. “We're very happy with the conviction. I don't know what's going to happen, you know, with this individual going forward, but we're very happy to get a conviction and that he did plead guilty. And I hope this never happens again.”

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