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July 25, 2014

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Bail remains at $310K for business owner accused of arson in pet shop fire

Protesters keep up pressure for harsh penalties

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Bethany Barnes

Protesters with Nevada Voters for Animals hold a banner declaring Gloria Lee as “the face of animal cruelty.” Lee is accused of setting her Las Vegas pet shop on fire on Jan. 27. The protesters are turning out for court hearings in Lee’s case to send a message to the judge that they want the harshest treatment possible for Lee.

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 | 4:10 p.m.

As animal rights activists looked on, a Las Vegas Township judge today refused to budge on bail for the woman accused of nearly killing 27 puppies during what authorities say was an arson fire last month at her pet shop.

Judge Janiece Marshall said in court today she had confirmed that Gloria Eun Hye Lee, 35, had been convicted of larceny involving a bank, escape and forgery. Lee, owner of the Prince and Princesses Pet Shop at 6870 S. Rainbow Boulevard, is accused of helping set her shop ablaze on the morning of Jan. 27, endangering the lives of the 27 puppies locked inside.

She is charged with first-degree arson, conspiracy to commit arson, 27 counts of attempted cruelty to animals, conspiracy to commit burglary and burglary.

After her arrest, Lee had posted a bail of $40,000 set by the jail, but she was put back in custody last week when Marshall raised bail to $310,000. Marshall said at the time she determined Lee was a flight risk because of her criminal past and because of the seriousness of the allegations against her.

Lee’s attorney Osvaldo Fumo asked to see proof of Lee’s convictions. Fumo said all he had been able to confirm was a federal forgery charge against Lee, which Fumo said related to an incident when Lee was 17.

Fumo told the court he did not believe a reported escape incident involving Lee was rooted in fact. He said Lee got probation in the forgery case but then moved with her father from Alaska to California, triggering the escape charge.

Fumo said Lee ended up turning herself in to authorities in California and serving seven months in custody.

Fumo also noted he believed all the past charges stemmed from the same incident and that he could find no record of an alleged bank-related larceny conviction.

Marshall said she would look at what she could release to the defense as proof of the convictions.

Lee remains in Clark County Detention Center on a $310,000 bail, which Fumo said she is unable to post. Officer Jose Hernandez, a Metro Police spokesman, said Lee was being housed in isolation at the jail, but he said it was not solitary confinement.

Fumo said Lee told him she was in solitary because other inmates were threatening her.

Fumo said he had “big concerns” about Lee’s safety because of the intense emotions surrounding the case. Lee’s husband and Lee's sister have attended every court hearing and fear for Lee’s safety, Fumo said.

“She is doing a harsher time than a normal person would be doing,” Fumo said, calling the bail unusually high and “pretrial punishment.”

So far activists have been tame and turned out in small numbers at hearings, protesting outside the courthouse and sitting quietly in the courtroom.

At Lee’s first court appearance, one activist did shout at Lee as she exited the courtroom. That activist also got into a verbal spat with Lee’s attorney Tom Pitaro, who asked the activist to “shut up.”

Before today's hearing, a small band of approximately 10 animal rights activists stood outside the courthouse with a large banner that said Lee was the face of animal cruelty. On the banner was Lee’s mug shot, which had been altered so that it showed her with devil horns.

The activists came inside to watch quietly as Lee's hearing got underway.

Gina Greisen, head of Nevada Voters for Animals, said the activists are turning out at Lee’s case to send a message to the judge that they want the harshest treatment possible for Lee. Greisen said the group also wants to dissuade the District Attorney’s Office from offering Lee any plea deals.

Greisen called Lee’s actions “the most evil, sinister thing that you can do on this Earth.”

Greisen said her group turns up at all cases of animal cruelty, but that the public has latched on to this case in particular. If Lee’s image makes her the face of animal cruelty, then so be it, she said.

The group also has an online petition calling for the harshest treatment possible for Lee. The petition has 781 signatures.

Lee’s alleged co-conspirator, Kirk Bills, was arrested Friday in Crown Point, Ind., according to Clark County Fire spokesman John Steinbeck. Bills faces the same charges as Lee.

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