Austin man who beat turtle to death in viral video gets probation


Man gets felony conviction, 200 community service hours and four years of probation.

June 2016 incident was captured on video by people walking on trails adjacent to Lady Bird Lake.

A man caught on camera beating a turtle to death with a hammer along Austin’s hike-and-bike trail in what became a viral video of the crime has pleaded guilty and will serve four years probation, according to prosecutors and court records.

Watch the video

Terry Wayne Washington, 56, must abide several terms during the next four years, or he risks having his probation revoked. They include:

• No pet ownership for the next four years.

• He must stay at least 500 yards from Lady Bird Lake while on probation.

• Washington must also perform 200 hours of community service.

• He must pay a $200 fine.

“When it comes to animal cruelty, we thought it was important to sustain a felony conviction,” said Jessica Huyhn, a Travis County assistant district attorney who handled the case. “Having that on-going supervision was critical in plea negotiations for our office.”

According to an arrest affidavit, joggers stopped to see what was happening and first thought Washington was trying to reel in a large fish.

“The witnesses stated that the turtle was not attacking the fisherman and appeared to be just trying to escape and return back to the water,” the document said.

The June 2016 incident was captured by visitors to the trail and shared worldwide on-line. Publications such as the Washington Post also wrote about it.

Washington’s plea to a charge of “cruelty to non-livestock animals: torture” came quietly in Travis County court last month.

Washington confessed to killing the animal two days after the incident and turned himself in.

Washington claimed he beat the turtle in self-defense. The reptile had lunged at him, he said, according to the affidavit. He acknowledged to police he had made no effort to cut the line or unhook the turtle. Police countered that the witness accounts dispute the claims of self-defense.

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