2-1 split decision on dog fighter's parole; to full board next

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - In a 2-1 vote in favor of parole, the man labeled South Carolina's most notorious dog fighter moved a step closer to being released from prison and his 30-year sentence.

Now David Tant's fate rests in the hands of the full parole board, who will consider his release at a later date. To secure his release in that hearing, he will need 4 votes in his favor.

Only three of the seven parole board members initially heard Tant's case because his is considered a non-violent offense.

In a parole hearing Wednesday, Tant, 62, told the parole board he is a new man and the man who was arrested six years ago is dead.

Tant has served six years of his 30-year sentence.

State Attorney General Henry McMaster told the parole board Wednesday that David Tant should not be paroled and should serve his entire sentence. McMaster was allowed to testify before the hearing started because he had another commitment.

Surrounded by family and supporters, Tant told the parole board he had learned his lesson and had turned to the Bible for guidance during his time in prison.

"Never again will I have anything else to do with dogs again," Tant said. "I won't even own a goldfish."

Dale Cobb, Tant's trial attorney, told the board Tant had already paid more than $100,000 in restitution. Even the man who was shot by a booby trap on Tant's property supported Tant's parole, Cobb said.

Tant's current attorney, Doug Jennings, said Tant's track record from the time he went to prison should be considered. He called McMaster's testimony politically motivated.

When his opponents addressed the parole board, they presented a darker side to Tant. Charlie karesh with the Charleston Animal Society said Tant was a manufacturer of assassins.

"Tant is a kingpin when it comes to dog fighting," he said, adding that the animals had to be euthanized because they were so aggressive.

Karesh delivered a list of 5,000 signatures asking that Tant's parole be denied.

Randall Lockwood, an officials with the National ASPCA said Tant should never again have contact with dogs, if he was released.

Tant's parole hearing was scheduled for last month, but at the request of his attorney it was postponed.

In 2004, Tant pleaded guilty to 41 counts of dog fighting after Charleston County sheriff's deputies seized 47 pit bulls and dog fighting equipment from his property in Rantowles.

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