High-profile cases not criminally prosecuted

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:


WARMINISTER, Pa.–Prosecutors around the U.S.
have warned in recent months that steep budget
cuts would result in more cases being dropped
instead of testing evidentiary issues by going to
Three controversial dispositions of
politically sensitive animal-related cases in
mid-March 2011 officially had nothing to do with
budget, but may be illustrative of how cases can
be shunted aside.

Monique Smith, 19, was arrested in
Brooklyn on March 9 on charges of felony and
misdemeanor animal cruelty for killing a hamster
on June 7, 2010 as an alleged act of retaliation
against her brother Aaron, 25, who had
allegedly killed her own hamster by kicking a
ball as the hamster played inside it.
Monique Smith was further charged with
three counts of endangering the welfare of a
child for allegedly plucking the hamster’s
whiskers out in front of three younger siblings,
before crushing the hamster to death in her hand.
A younger brother called the American SPCA, but
Monique Smith evaded arrest for nine months.
Aaron Smith was not charged, due to lack
of evidence that he knew the hamster was inside
the ball when he kicked it.
The case drew national publicity and much mocking commentary.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office
dropped all charges against Monique Smith on
March 11, “because there were inconsistent
statements from the various witnesses,” reported
New York Daily News writers Irving DeJohn and
Corky Siemaszko.
“If I saw a hamster in this filthy place,
I’d kill it,” Monique Smith told DeJohn and
Siemaszko from her jail cell before her release.
“I didn’t kill that hamster, but I’d kill one
right now because that’s what I’m in here for–a
BS rodentÅ a rat!”
Calaveras County Superior Court Assigned
Judge Thomas A. Smith on March 22, 2011 ruled in
San Andreas, California, that Sheryl Sellers,
49, would not face felony prosecution for the
August 22, 2010 fatal mauling of her landlord,
Jerry Yates, 69, by her two pit bull terriers,
even though Sellers reportedly told witnesses
that her pit bulls were capable of killing
someone, and even though Judge Smith noted that
she did not keep them securely confined.
The dogs killed Yates just outside his
workshop. No one actually saw the killing occur.
Yates, a gas station owner, was prominent in
local philanthropy.
“The law under which Sellers was
charged–California Penal Code Section
399–requires prosecutors to prove that the
person killed by vicious dogs took reasonable
precautions to avoid harm,” explained Stockton
Record staff writer Dana M. Nichols.
“There’s a failure of any actual evidence
as to what precipitated the attack,” Smith said
in his ruling. “What reasonable conduct did he
engage in?”
Yates’ daughter, Jami Southard, “is
considering filing a civil suit against Sellers,”
Nichols reported.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness
founder Steve Hindi anticipated felony charges
against Robert Olsen, 61, of Warminster,
Olsen on February 22, 2011 allegedly
tried to physically obstruct SHARK member Janet
Enoch from videotaping him in the act of
accosting Hindi after a demonstration against
pigeon shooting. Olsen was then videotaped by
Enoch as he pointed a handgun at Hindi.
Olsen is an employee of Carlton Pools,
owned by Joseph Solana, who also owns the Wing
Pointe hunt club where the pigeon shoots are
held. Other Carlton Pools employees were shown
in Enoch’s video, also videotaping the
confrontation. However, after Hindi and Enoch
called the Warminster police, only Enoch’s video
camera was known to have been impounded as
evidence, along with Hindi’s laptop computer.
The video camera and laptop were held for 12
days. After they were returned to Enoch and
Hindi, SHARK posted the video to YouTube.
Instead of filing criminal charges,
Warminster Township on March 22, 2011 issued
four summary citations against Hindi, two
against Enoch, and two against Olsen, each
having about the same legal weight as a parking
ticket. Each person was fined $44.00.
“District Attorney David Heckler has a
history of protecting pigeon shooters,” alleged
SHARK spokesperson Stuart Chaifetz. “He has
repeatedly ignored offenses ranging from animal
cruelty, to shooters covering their license
plates, to shooters using their vehicles to
threaten and intimidate, to weapons being
knowingly discharged in the direction of
protesters, and in some cases hitting them.”
Hindi pledged to fight the citations in
court, a rarity in a summary case.

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