VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Two men accused of attacking a disabled veteran while he was trying to protect an animal pleaded not guilty during a court appearance Thursday morning.
Ryan Ponder, 23, and Johnnie Beveritt, 18, are accused of beating up Garry Blough last month after police said he tried to stop the men from torturing a turtle. A teenager was also arrested in connection with the attack.
Veterans and volunteers from the Arni Foundation showed up at the Justice Center with signs of support for Blough.
"We're very grateful (for) everyone's help and assistance," Blough said.
Blough, now wearing an eye patch and a cast on his arm, said he's recovering but may lose his eye because of the assault.
Ponder's and Beveritt's family members were also in court. Ponder's stepmother, Latoya King, said there's no way that her stepson could be responsible for the attack.
"He was not raised to do stuff like this, from me, or his mom or his dad," King said.
The men appeared before a judge Thursday morning and pleaded not guilty in front of a crowded courtroom.
"To see them, it was a little bit intimidating," Blough said. "But I looked around the room and it's like, ‘Now, let's see you guys try something.'"
The Persian Gulf War veteran said he's disappointed with the outcome in court.
"All they're doing is delaying it, costing taxpayers a bunch of money," Blough said.
Beveritt's mother, Lachar Montgomery, said the trio never killed a turtle and attacked Blough in self-defense.
"The kids were not out there doing anything to the turtle. They were not. We have a pet turtle at home. (Blough) is not telling the truth. He grabbed Johnny first. That's what made Johnny hit him," Montgomery said.
Montgomery had a message for Blough.
"Tell the truth,” she said. “Tell everything if you're going to tell anything."
The men will remain in the Volusia County Jail if they can't post bond. Their pretrial hearing is scheduled for April.
Arni Foundation officials told News 6 that the organization raised $5,000 for Blough and will present the check to him, along with an award, at a charity event next week.