A Toms River man whose dog was inside a pickup truck that plunged through the ice on a frozen river last year has been denied admittance to a diversionary program that would allow him to avoid jail time and a criminal record.
Andrew Mayer, 28, appeared today before Ocean County Superior Court Judge James M. Blaney for a pre-trial conference on his Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) request, according to a statement from Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office (OCPO) spokesman Al Della Fave.
“Both the PTI coordinator and OCPO rejected Mayer for PTI,” Della Fave said. “His attorney, Brad Billheimer requested an adjournment to review whether to appeal the PTI rejection and to confer with his client about their direction in the case.”
The next conference is scheduled for May 23, the spokesman said.
The program allows defendants, generally first-time offenders, to avoid a criminal record if successfully completed. Otherwise, the case returns to the criminal court for prosecution.
Mayer man faces charges of third degree criminal mischief and third degree animal cruelty for the March 1, 2015 incident, according to an indictment issued last June.
The indictment alleges that Mayer “purposely, knowingly or recklessly failed to provide necessary care for and protection of his dog, Rolo, from harm by driving his pickup truck onto the frozen Toms River.”
Mayer’s dog died after the truck cracked through the ice, while the man safely reached the shoreline, the indictment states.
A witness told police that the truck was driven to the center of the river and began spinning in circles.
According to the indictment, Mayer then failed to notify authorities of the incident, resulting in a substantial search and rescue operation involving the United States Coast Guard Aviation Unit, the New Jersey State Police Aviation and Marine units, local marine units, and multiple local police departments, fire companies, and first aid squads from Toms River, Beachwood, Pine Beach and Island Heights.
Mayer could face up to five years in prison if he decides to go to trial and is convicted, Della Fave said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.