A Whitesboro man who faced three counts of bestiality and one count of assault of a family member was not in the 59th state District Court this week.

Ernesto Mercado pleaded guilty to the charges on Sept. 26.

Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith said this week that Mercado, 42, accepted a sentence of four years deferred adjudication probation for the family violence charge he faced and two years in state jail on the bestiality charges which was then probated for five years.

In addition, he will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years after he completes his probation and must not have any contact with animals.

Smith said Mercado also agreed to undergo sex offender treatment and counseling as a condition of his probation.

The prosecutor said Mercado had no prior criminal history.

Mercado was represented in the case by Sherman Attorney John Houston Nix who could not be immediately be reached for comment.

Reports from the time of the incident show that Sherman Police Sgt. Brett Mullen said that on the morning of Jan. 17, the department received a tip from an individual who pointed investigators toward evidence related to the alleged animal abuse incident. Mullen said he could not elaborate on the evidence obtained, but said it was enough to get an arrest warrant.

Mercado was taken into custody within a matter of hours.

“Our investigation was conducted and revealed that in June of 2018 (the suspect) did engage in sexual conduct or contact with a dog,” Mullen said. “That is not generally-accepted and otherwise lawful animal husbandry or veterinarian practice.”

Mullen said the dog was not injured in the alleged incident and had been moved to a different home before police began their investigation.

Mullen said bestiality is a state jail felony and was only made a formal criminal offense in Texas in Sept. 2017. The charge is punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

“This is the first one, the first bestiality case for Sherman PD,” Mullen said.

Jerrie Whiteley is the Criminal Justice Editor at the Herald Democrat. She may be contacted at JWhiteley@HeraldDemocrat.com.