NEWARK — A man already serving a prison sentence for pummeling a pit bull nearly to death is now facing more hard time for bashing in his uncle's face and attacking a cop.

An Essex County jury on Thursday found city resident Lateef Dennis, 40, guilty of aggravated assault and spitting on an officer in the April 2017 incident involving his relative.

Dennis was sentenced earlier this year to 18 months in prison for animal cruelty for beating his dog in 2016. A neighbor and police saw him punching, kicking and stomping the 12-year-old dog named Diamond.

In the recent case, prosecutors secured a conviction after a three-day trial even though the victim declined to testify on the stand — a challenge prosecutors often face in domestic violence cases and in crimes in some of the most violent neighborhoods.

"This verdict signifies that the State of New Jersey can prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt even when the jury does not hear from the victim," Assistant Prosecutor Jason Lesnevec said Friday.

The uncle was hospitalized for three days in 2017 and underwent surgery after Dennis repeatedly punched him in the face until he passed out. The attack on the front lawn of their home was seen by witnesses. The attack left Dennis' uncle with a twice-broken jaw, a broken cheek bone and three broken ribs.

After he was arrested, Dennis spit into an officer's nostril and eye, prosecutors said.

He now faces up to 10 years in prison for the latest conviction. His record already included convictions for animal cruelty, resisting arrest, aggravated assault and drug dealing.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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