PUEBLO, Colo. - Animal advocates want to make sure a man accused of killing a kitten receives a proper sentence.
District Judge Victor Reyes tossed out Robert Heckmann's plea deal Monday after seeing his exclusive interview with KRDO NewsChannel 13. Heckmann will face a jury in June. If convicted, he could spend up to 18 months in jail.
KRDO NewsChannel 13 asked criminal defense attorney Karl Tameler, former chief trial deputy for the 10th Judicial District, about the impact of Heckmann's interview. Tameler did not want to speak specifically about the Heckmann case but said it's not in a client's best interest to speak publicly after entering a plea deal.
"Most people assume if you enter a plea, you're guilty," Tameler said. "So if you get out on the media and start saying you're not guilty, you're not responsible, you're detracting from your sense of remorse, your sense of responsibility for the crime."
Heckmann is accused of torturing and killing a kitten named Loki. When KRDO NewsChannel 13 asked Heckmann in an interview earlier this month if he admitted to killing Loki by entering a plea deal, he replied, "No, I do not."
The interview resulted in what members of a group called Justice for Loki wanted. The group submitted more than 3,500 signatures to the judge, asking him to reject the plea deal.
"I couldn't wrap my mind around how something like this could happen and didn't want it to happen to any animal again," said Noelle Booher, who sent a letter to the judge.
But the public outcry over Heckmann's alleged actions may not be enough to move the trial out of Pueblo.
"There has to be an overwhelming media response and an overwhelming sense that the general public in a certain community feels one way or the other about a case," Tameler said.
Heckmann's trial begins June 10.