Two men accused of beating up a disabled war veteran who tried to stop them from killing a turtle have been sentenced to probation, but will avoid jail time.
Ryan Ponder, 23, and Johnnie Beveritt, 18, were sentenced by a judge in Volusia County, Florida, on Monday after pleading no contest to battery and animal cruelty charges, local ABC affiliate WFTV reported.
The men were sentenced to 18 months of probation for abusing the turtle, as well as 12 months of probation for beating Navy veteran Gary Blough, 46. They’ll serve both sentences at once, rather than consecutively, and are prohibited from having any unnecessary interaction with wild animals.
Blough, who suffered facial injuries and hairline fractures after his confrontation with the two men in February, said he was “upset” by the sentence.
“Was expecting them having to admit [guilt] and I thought they would have more jail time,” Blough posted on Facebook on Monday.
Blough wrote that though he’s “not happy” with the judge’s decision, he did like the judge’s order for Beveritt to continue his education. The men must also take an anger management class and avoid contact with the victim and his family.
Blough was inside of his Daytona Beach home on Feb. 14 when he said his wife and young daughter ran in crying after seeing people abusing a turtle near a pond outside.
“They had it over their head and they were smashing it,” Blough had previously recalled of the attack that likely killed the animal.
Blough, who uses a walker and wears a leg brace after being injured in an explosion during the first Gulf War of 1990-1991, said he immediately intervened and the men began to beat him.
The veteran had heavy bruising to his right eye after the attack, and was wearing an eye patch at Monday’s sentencing. Despite his injuries, he has said he had no regrets about confronting the pair.
Neither Ponder nor Beveritt spoke during the arraignment, but Beveritt’s mother disputed Blough’s version of events, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
Ponder and Beveritt were ordered to pay $16,500 apiece in restitution to Blough. That’s money Blough said he doesn’t expect to see.
“Now we have to try to figure out how to get the rest of these medical bills paid,” he told WFTV. “I have nerve damage. The lights still mess with my eye.”
A GoFundMe account for Blough had raised more than $36,000 as of late Tuesday afternoon.