BASTROP, Texas -- Jurors found a former Central Texas pastor guilty of animal cruelty over the death of his neighbor's cat Friday morning.
Rick Bartlett is the former pastor of the Bastrop Christian Church. He stepped down from the role after the charges came out last year.
A woman walking her dog found the cat, named Moody, under a bridge on the bank of the Colorado River in January 2012. The cat later died from injuries from a fall, according to the treating vet.
Bartlett says he trapped the cat in his yard, believing it was feral. Defense Attorney Chris Dillon says the neighborhood has a problem with feral cats, and Bartlett had a history of trapping ones that got into his yard. He took the cat to Animal Control and was told to return it to the owners listed on Moody's collar.
Some animal right's activists believe Bartlett threw the cat off the bridge. Bartlett says it jumped out of his truck.
Family, friends and some of Bartlett's former church members attended the trial. They stand by his innocence, describing Bartlett as a well-loved pastor, who would never harm an animal.
Nearly a dozen animal rights activists also attended the trial, describing the verdict as justice for Moody. They say this sends a strong message to the Bastrop community that animal cruelty will not be tolerated.
Bartlett's animal cruelty conviction is a Class A misdemeanor. A punishment hearing is set for June 24. Bartlett could face jail time and a fine.
Moody's owners, Sarah and Eddy Bell, are now in a civil case with Bartlett. Bell's attorney, Bill Aleshire, says it is a theft case because Bartlett trapped Moody in his yard.