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Ex-Raven Terrence Cody faces animal cruelty charges

The animal cruelty trial for former Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Terrence Cody began in front of a judge Thursday morning in Baltimore County Circuit Court after final plea offers to him and his girlfriend were rejected.

Assistant State’s Attorney Adam D. Lippe told Judge Judith C. Ensor that a canary mastiff named Taz “died a miserable, horrible death because of the conduct of both defendants.”

The bulk of the state’s case was presented Thursday and Lippe said he expects to conclude Friday. The defendants may testify, he added.

Cody, 27, and his girlfriend, Kourtney Kelley, 28, were indicted in February on multiple counts of animal cruelty, including two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, and marijuana and paraphernalia possession after a search of their Reisterstown home revealed an illegally imported alligator, nearly 20 grams of marijuana and smoking devices.

Lippe said Thursday morning the state offered Cody the option to plead guilty to aggravated animal cruelty and three misdemeanors, which could result in more than four years in prison, but Cody rejected the offer. The same offer was made to Kelley, who also declined.

Cody brought Taz to Main Street Veterinary Hospital in Reisterstown the evening of Jan. 19, according to Lippe, and he died shortly before midnight. Technicians and the veterinarian at the hospital described the dog as emaciated, gasping and at death’s door.

Martha Smith-Blackmore, a veterinarian who studies canine welfare in Boston, testified as an expert Thursday and described the signs and symptoms of starvation in dogs as a suffering condition, both physically and psychologically.

Starvation happens over time, Smith-Blackmore said. Based on her review of photographs of Taz and a cage found in Cody’s garage, she said she believed the dog spent the majority of his time in the cage and showed signs of urine scalding and pressure calluses as well as emaciation.

Joseph Murtha. (File)

Joseph Murtha. (File)

Joseph Murtha, Cody’s defense attorney, told Ensor his client was devoted to Taz but relied on others for advice on how to care for him.

“Mr. Cody did not intentionally, cruelly kill the animal,” said Murtha, of Murtha, Psoras & Lanasa LLC in Lutherville. “He did not torture the animal.”

Cody expects to be convicted on some of the counts in the case, Murtha added, but he was at most negligent in caring for Taz.

“He accepts responsibility for not being as attentive as he should have been,” said Murtha, who argued Cody taking Taz to the vet was a sign he did not intentionally hurt him.

Jose A. Molina, a Towson solo practitioner representing Kelley, said his client was not involved in the care of Taz and he was not a “family dog” as characterized by prosecutors.

At the time of Taz’s death, Kelley was eight months pregnant, had another child at home and was working, Molina said.

“She had her hands full,” he said. “She’s not responsible in any way for Taz’s death.”

The cases are State of Maryland v. Terrence Bernard Cody, K15000451, and State of Maryland v. Kourtney Jammese Kelley, K15000452.