Andrew George Bassler, 36, of Ore City, was sentenced by 115th District Court Judge Lauren Parish on a plea bargain, Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd said.
Bassler admitted hanging the animal June 27 behind his property on land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Byrd said.
The defendant initially claimed the donkey already was dead when he hung it in order to lure a panther that he believed had been hunting some of his other animals, Byrd said. Bassler said he planned to kill the panther, the prosecutor said.
The defendant changed his story after a psychiatrist who examined him determined he was competent to stand trial and that he was not insane when the crime occurred, Byrd said. However, Bassler gave no reason for the hanging and the state has no idea of his motive, the district attorney said.
Bassler had served time in county jail for a 2009 misdemeanor conviction of cruelty to a non-livestock animal—failing to adequately feed and water a dog — but had no other criminal record, Byrd said.
The defendant would have been eligible for probation had he chosen to go to trial, and a trial date was scheduled to be set the week of Jan. 14, Byrd noted.
The maximum sentence for the felony offense was 24 months in state jail. Bassler, who has been in county jail since late last June, received credit on his sentence for time already served, which amounted to about one-third of the 18-month term, the prosecutor said.
Besides imposing the jail term, Judge Parish ordered Bassler to pay $610 restitution to Gilmer Animal Clinic for going to evaluate the donkey, writing a report and evaluating the defendant’s other animals, Byrd said.
Gladewater attorney Barry Wallace represented Bassler, who has worked in general construction, but who stated he is unemployed, Byrd said.