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Animal advocates outraged convicted abuser freed after 4 years in jail

11Alive went through court documents to get answers.

POLK COUNTY, Ga. — Animal advocates are outraged after a man convicted of abusing 107 dogs served only four years in prison – even though he was originally sentenced to 50.

Four years ago, dozens of animal advocates gathered on the Polk County Courthouse steps  to celebrate the harsh prison sentence for a man convicted of running dog fights.

Now they're furious he's already out of prison, and are worried he could offend again.

Stephen Phillips rescued Grace from a dog fighting ring in Argon in Polk County in 2017. He said she always carried the scars of what happened to her, but with the love of their family, she overcame it.

"You wouldn't believe the transformation she had, she was just the best dog ever," he said. 

He still has a picture of what Grace's life looked like before she was rescued; the dogs endured horrific conditions. 

"To see 107 dogs on car axels and chains and no food or water, it really opens your eyes. Just horrifying. Nothing to eat, chewing on sticks and rocks," he said. 

Credit: Courtesy of Stephen Phillips
Grace

Devecio Rowland was convicted of 107 counts of dog fighting and 107 counts of cruelty to animals. Phillips attended Rowland's sentencing hearing, and said he was relieved the judge gave him 50 years with15 to serve.

"I figured he would do nine or 10. So, when I found out recently he was paroled -- I just don't understand the justice system," he said. 

Phillips joined dozens of people asking 11Alive how Rowland was released after just four years. 11Alive went through the court documents to get answers. They show Rowland was arrested in 2017.

In 2018, he was sentenced to 50 years with 15 to serve. Then, Rowland requested a new trial in 2020. However, in 2021, his sentence was amended to 30 years with 7 to serve.

In checking Georgia law, 11Alive confirmed people can become eligible for parole after serving a third of their sentence. So, in 2022, he was eligible and got out.

"For those dogs, four years is nothing. He was abusing dogs for over 10 years. Give him the same sentence he gave those dogs. He should have served at least 10," said Phillips. 

11Alive reached out to the district attorney's office multiple times over the last several days. In addition, 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross went to the D.A.’s office in Polk County to ask why Rowland's sentence was amended. 11Alive also called Rowland's attorney to get an answer, but so far – neither has responded.

  

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