EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — A couple who denied their would-be sacrificial lamb food and locked it in a closet soaked in urine and feces were found guilty of animal cruelty on Tuesday.
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Periz Jackson, 30, and Elijah Black, 42, argued they were being persecuted by El Paso County authorities for following their religious beliefs. A two-woman, four-man jury didn’t buy it, finding the two guilty of animal cruelty after deliberating for just over an hour.
The two each face up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. Their sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 7.
Jackson and Black belong to a religious community called the “Hebrew-Israelites,” a group which asserts that African Americans are the ethnic successors of God’s chosen people and follows the Torah.
The couple was planning to slaughter the lamb, which they purchased from a livestock grower just east of Denver, and then roast it as part of a Passover ritual described in the book of “Exodus.”
That was until neighbors in their apartment began complaining about a foul odor coming from the couple’s apartment.
According to court testimony, landlord Kevin Lofland pressed his ear against the couple’s door and heard a “Baa.” When he gained entry, he found the lamb tied up in the middle of the living room on a tarp covered in straw and urine.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Lofland said. “It smelled like a barn, and the sheep was making all kinds of noise.”
Lofland said he asked the couple to house the animal in the basement of the apartment overnight and remove it the next day. He called police after entering the apartment a day later to find the lamb chained to a pair of dumb bells inside a padlocked closet.
The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region took over care of the animal and claimed it hadn’t been fed for a 16-hour period.
Stating the couple’s financial difficulties and a distrust in the idea of a government-appointed attorney, Black served as the couple’s lawyer. He said the prosecution did not prove that the animal was mistreated, as the lamb was uninjured when it was taken by the Humane Society.
Black said the couple will appeal the jury’s decision.