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Palm Coast Thursday, Jun. 22, 2017 3 years ago

Deputies: Man 'sicced' his dog on neighbor who'd intervened in dispute

John Anthony Benedetto, 37, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

On June 16, a local man was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — which, in itself, wasn't unusual. But the nature of the weapon was: The "weapon" in this case was the man's dog, which the victim and two witnesses said the man had "sicced" on the victim.

The case started with an incident on June 3 in The Hammock. 

John Benedetto, 37, was arguing and cursing at two female neighbors, ages 48 and 62, when neighbor Robert Brandon came out and told him to stop, according to Brandon's account to a deputy.

"(Brandon) stated that he told (Benedetto) to stop yelling and cursing at the girls because they gave done nothing wrong," a deputy wrote in an arrest report.

The women later told deputies that Benedetto had been drunk and was looking for booze in one of the women's cars. When she told him she didn't have any alcohol and told him to get out of her car, he cursed at her, made a fist, and charged — but struck the second women as he tried to get to the woman who owned the car. 

That's when Brandon, 47, saw what was happening and told Benedetto to stop, the women said.

But instead of stopping, Benedetto punched Brandon in the face, bruising his right eye, then grabbed him and pushed him to the ground.

The two men fought on the ground, and then Benedetto, according to the women, unleashed his dog — a 60-90-pound mastiff mix named Bowser which had been tied to a tree and which the women had been watching over — and ordered it to attack Brandon, repeatedly saying, "Sic him!"

Brandon knew the dog: He'd dog-sat for it in the past and never had any trouble with it, he told deputies.

But after Benedetto ordered the dog to attack,  the dog "viciously bit into (Brandon's) right arm at which time he tried to get the dog off of him with his left arm." Then the dog grabbed his left arm.

"(Brandon) remembers (Benedetto) just watching as the dog attacked him," according to the report.

One of the women said Benedetto "grabbed his dog by the neck and pulled the dog's face over to (Brandon) and started telling the dog to get him over and over, making the dog attack."

One of the women called 911.

Brandon told the deputy that he feared for his life when the dog attacked him, believing that if it latched onto his neck, it would have killed him.

After Brandon repeatedly told Benedetto to get his dog off him, Benedetto took the dog and put it inside his trailer.

Flagler County Fire Rescue arrived, and an ambulance took Brandon to Halifax Medical Center — the hospital used for trauma cases —  "due to the severity of the injuries," according to the report.

Brandon was still hospitalized at Halifax Medical Center when deputies visited him June 15 to take a statement. There were stitches on Brandon's upper right arm, a deputy wrote in the arrest report, and his left forearm was "completed wrapped in a medical bandage" and connected to a device to draw fluid away from the wound. His right eye was still bruised.

Benedetto, the deputy wrote in the report, "clearly used his dog as a lethal weapon against Robert Brandon with intent to inflict great bodily harm and did cause great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement."

The dog, which is about 7 years old and is an un-neutered male, was taken by Flagler County Animal Control officers on June 4 for a 10-day bite quarantine to ensure it doesn't have any communicable diseases such as rabies, Flagler County Humane Society Executive Director Amy Carotenuto said. 

Bowser is also the subject of a dangerous dog investigation and remains at the Humane Society as the investigation proceeds. If the dog is declared dangerous, it would not necessarily have to be euthanized, but would have to be kept in compliance with a set of restrictions designed to prevent a future bite. 

Deputies arrested Benedetto June 16 on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He bonded out the following day, according to jail records.


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