The Kelowna man who tortured and killed three hamsters has been sentenced to an 18-month condition sentence, followed by three years probation.
Leighton Labute was charged in May 2020 after social media posts made a year earlier surfaced of an incident that depicted him torturing hamsters. In June, he pleaded guilty to one charge of killing or injuring an animal in a plea deal, that saw two other charges stayed — one for causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal and another for making or publishing obscene matter.
The 21-year-old appeared in a Kelowna courtroom on Wednesday for sentencing.
Shortly after he was charged, an Instagram account with over 7,000 followers, which includes Labute’s name in the bio, became public. It largely consisted largely of photos of anthropomorphic clay sculptures and dolls depicting gore and rape.
Black Press Media has chosen not to name the account due to the graphic nature of the content.
A YouTube account under Labute’s name contains similar content, as well as vulgar discussions of his sexual fantasies, some involving sex dolls. One video on that account, titled “1 kid 3 hamsters” and dated May 14, 2019, shows a man with three hamsters he’d recently purchased.
Those Instagram and YouTube accounts turned investigators onto a Reddit account that also belonged to Labute, where the video in question was posted to several forums.
These posts were in subreddits such as r/aww, r/animals and r/genius where disturbing content is out of place and not expected.
Crown Counsel Maegan Richards says that Labute posted on Twitter about the enjoyment he gets in posting this content and how it ruins peoples’ days.
Labute was reportedly identified and linked to the accounts by members of Kelowna Secondary School.
Following the charges against Labute, protests were held outside the Kelowna Court House where residents claimed they were raising awareness about what the man did and demanded harsh punishment for his crime.
During Wednesday’s proceedings, the Labute family issued a statement in regards to Leighton’s mental health, noting he is severely autistic. Psychiatric reports submitted by doctors for sentencing found him to have the mental capacity of a 12-year-old and significant intellectual deficit.
The statement reads as follows:
The Labute family provided this statement to media: pic.twitter.com/K78fVBAz4D
— Michael Rodriguez (@MichaelRdrguez) August 18, 2021
Defence lawyer Julian Van Der Walle focused on Labute’s autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as his impaired interpersonal skills, low intelligence, and history of bullying as potentially mitigating factors in the sentencing.
Judge Paul Dohm recognized the points brought up but did not determine any of them to be mitigating factors, adding that the suggested sentence of 18 months conditional and three years probation “completely fit and is an appropriate sentence, especially for this accused.”
The primary terms of his sentence include not owning pets or visiting pet stores, adhering to a strict 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. curfew, no access to the internet for any non-approved reasons and no deleting internet history or use of incognito browsing.
While Labute chose to remain silent during the trial, he did verbally understand and comply with the terms of his sentencing.
Neither Van Der Walle nor the family were available for comment after the sentencing.
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