WHEELING - Judge James Mazzone said Wednesday that while he appreciates Anthony Doyle's military service and the terrible things he endured and witnessed as a soldier, including Doyle's harrowing account of a fatal vehicle crash, this is a world where there are consequences for people's actions.
Mazzone went on to sentence Doyle to two to 10 years in prison for beating his ex-girlfriend's dog to death at her Wheeling Island home in August. Doyle, 28, of Wheeling, accepted a plea agreement in February and pleaded guilty to two counts of animal cruelty. In exchange, the prosecution agreed to recommend Doyle be paroled after serving two years of his sentence.
Dr. Robert Rush, a clinical psychologist, interviewed Doyle and his family and reviewed reports from the Northern Regional Jail, Hillcrest Behavior Health Center and Northwood Health Systems. Rush diagnosed Doyle with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder - as have other doctors - as well as a depressive disorder and alcoholism.
Photo by Tyler Reynard
Anthony Doyle speaks to his attorney, Chris Scheetz, in Ohio County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
Doyle idolized the military because of the service of his family members, Rush testified. He became disenchanted with the life of a soldier, however, and his tour of duty undermined his value system, Rush added. When Doyle returned stateside, he tried to self-medicate by "drowning himself" in alcohol.
Under questioning from Ohio County Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak, Rush admitted he was alarmed by some of what he had learned in interviews with Doyle, including how much the prospect of receiving medication motivated his re-entry into society. Rush added that he believes Doyle lacks an appropriate insight into the depth of his problems.
Ohio County Chief Public Defender Shayne Welling, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and is a Judge Advocate General's Corps officer, said he empathizes with Doyle's military experience and asserted that he should be admired for his service.
"We both spent time in the sandbox," Welling offered.
The assistance veterans received when Doyle returned home in 2004 was drastically different from when Welling was discharged four years later. Doyle served in a culture where asking for help was a sign of weakness, Welling said, and the military was not prepared to deal with the issues from which soldiers suffered. Welling speculated there are "thousands of Anthony Doyles" across the country.
He added that Doyle received an "other than honorable" discharge, which denies him veteran's affairs benefits, including health care and counseling. Welling said he will work on Doyle's behalf to change the status of his discharge.
Doyle recalled the soldiers he served with and the "trigger-happy" and "bloodthirsty" mentality that was prevalent among the infantry. He said he was trained to kill and barked out the instruction he received, "three to five second rush, take the objective."
One of his fellow soldiers was sleep deprived and fell asleep while driving one day, Doyle said. When the vehicle crashed, Doyle was among the group of soldiers who exited their own vehicle and raced back to help.
Doyle's commanding officer was dead by the time Doyle reached the crash, he said, while others were ejected from the vehicle or screaming while trapped inside.
A recently married soldier was reduced to a vegetative state, and another lost feeling in the lower half of his body, Doyle said while shaking his head.
Doyle also recalled learning that the family of an interpreter was murdered in their home, where just days earlier Doyle and his fellow soldiers had befriended them over dinner.
He accepted responsibility for his actions, however, and said his most recent arrest enlightened him to the effects of his actions and the pain they have inflicted upon people throughout the Ohio Valley.
"I was raised better than this," he said. "I've had better examples set in my life."
The sentence must correspond with the crime, Turak said, while arguing that Doyle be placed in prison rather than receive alternative sentencing. She also pointed out that Doyle did not seek counseling following convictions for domestic violence, public intoxication or drunken driving. She added that neither Doyle's military service, nor Welling's message, were lost on the prosecution.