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Man Who Pleaded Guilty To Dog Fighting Sentenced Today

A Ramona father of two who raised pit bulls at his home for dog fighting was sentenced today to a year in custody.

Raul Leyva, 35, pleaded guilty in September to five counts of owning, training or possessing a dog for dog-fighting purposes on the day his case was to go to trial at the El Cajon Courthouse.

Leyva's lawyer, Vikas Bajaj, said his client decided to plead guilty to avoid a potentially harsher sentence.

"He simply could not take the risk of being away from his family," Bajaj told the judge today. "He is very remorseful for everything that happened."

As a condition of his five-year probation, Leyva -- who has two young daughters -- was ordered not to own or possess any dogs.

Judge Allan Preckel "struck" Leyva's 1996 felony conviction for robbery for trying to steal beer from a convenience store, leading to the probationary sentence.

Since Leyva has a full-time job as a sheet metal worker, Preckel said the defendant could serve his custody in a county work furlough program.

The judge said Leyva had a positive family and work history, but also had some problems in his past.

"There's a very good side to Mr. Leyva's character and also a dark side to Mr. Leyva's character," he said.

Preckel said he was troubled that Leyva threatened to release some pit bills on officers who contacted him following the 1996 robbery.

Deputy District Attorney Karra Reedy told the judge that Leyva's crimes were "premeditated," and argued there was evidence that he had been keeping pit bulls at his home for fighting for a number of years.

The county Department of Animal Services raided Leyva's home in April 2008, seizing a 16-by-16-foot piece of carpeting stained with dog blood. A schedule of dog fights was found in Leyva's kitchen, Reedy said.

Eric Sakach of the Humane Society of the United States testified at an earlier hearing that carpeting is used as a floor in dog fighting to give the animals traction while they're fighting.

Authorities also found a document during the search of Leyva's home that showed a training regimen for dogs for being prepared for fights, vitamins and injuries to 10 pit bulls.

All of the canines were seized and later euthanized.

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