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Merrick man pleads guilty to animal cruelty in rabbit killing

A Merrick man who killed a cottontail rabbit with a hockey stick, and used the animal's body as a puck, pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Rhode Island courtroom to an animal cruelty charge and was sentenced to 2 months of home confinement wearing an ankle bracelet, law enforcement officials said.

Nicholas Coyle, 20, a Chaminade High School graduate, must wear an ankle bracelet during the confinement in Rhode Island, the officials said.

A Chaminade lacrosse player, Coyle lost his athletic scholarship to Salve Regina University, in Newport, R.I., after his arrest last November.

The Providence Journal reported that animal cruelty investigators responded to another university student's complaint about the Nov. 4, 2011, incident. "Animal cruelty investigator Joe Warzycha found a bloodied rabbit body stuffed in a plastic bag and deposited in a trash container, and, nearby, a hockey stick covered in blood and rabbit hair," the newspaper reported.

Coyle now faces 9 months' probation after his 60-day home confinement period ends, Susan Lamkins, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, said.

Rhode Island television footage after his sentencing Tuesday showed a handcuffed Coyle being led into the prisoner holding cage of a corrections department bus, and he was required to spend a night at the state Adult Correctional Institute, officials said.

Coyle, who is barred from speaking with reporters without advance approval from his probation supervisor, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His lawyer, Susan Perkins of Providence, was not available for comment, an assistant in her office said.

Coyle's home confinement release date is Dec. 8, at which time he may apply to serve his probation in New York State, Lamkins said. In the meantime "he would be able to go to a job or attend school, but he can't leave the state," she said.

Coyle entered the misdemeanor plea in an agreement with the state attorney general to avoid trial on a felony charge of malicious injury to animals, Craig Berke, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Judiciary, said.

Newport County Superior Court Magistrate Susan L. Kenney also sentenced him to 100 hours of community service, Berke said. State officials declined to say where Coyle will do his community service.

In the agreement Coyle signed he acknowledges, "I also understand that an unauthorized absence of 30 minutes will result in my being considered an escapee, and I may subsequently be charged as same" with a penalty of 1 to 20 years, officials said.

He will be monitored continuously for the two-month confinement, and is subject to unscheduled drug and alcohol testing.


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