Q: What’s worse than a human being who willfully tortures a dog???????
A: —— An innocent man, wrongfully arrested, jailed and ACCUSED of torturing an animal…..when he did nothing, nothing, NOTHING wrong.
Charges were finally dropped against D.A. a few weeks ago. But not before he’d been wrongfully arrested, held in jail, had his bond ‘jacked up’ from $7,500.00 to $75,000.00, had the animal he loved taken from him, and spent thousands of dollars, as well as hundreds of sleepless nights wondering if he would serve the next several years of his life in a 5′ X 8′ cell, courtesy of Florida’s Department of Corrections. (See St. Lucie County case # 2016 CF 0031).
Tuesday, January 1, 2016, D.A., a 30 year old county employee with no prior criminal history, woke to the sounds of a crowd yelling, and dogs yelping, outside of his home in Fort Pierce, Florida. D.A., is an animal lover, who proudly displays his own animals in competitions, where he has won numerous awards.
Alarmed, he ran outside, only to find some 30-50 people engaged in watching a dog fight.
The attendees scattered when they saw D.A., leaving only one badly injured dog in the yard adjacent to his home. He picked the dog up, brought the animal into his house, and began to administer first aid to the injured, frightened animal.
A neighbor had called the police, who responded promptly. Law enforcement had been told that the injured dog was in D.A.’s house. The cops made entry into the home, and found the dog, immediately concluding that D.A. was one of the people involved in staging the dog fighting event. (It might have helped had they elected to ask D.A. a few questions—but why bother? After all, they had the “evidence” right there in front of them.)
D.A.’s own animals were then taken from him and brought to the Humane Society, and D.A. was brought to the St. Lucie County’s infamous jail at “Rock Road”.
D.A.’s bond initially was set at $7,500.00—but inexplicably, the ‘First Appearance’ judge the following morning raised the bond by ten times, to $75,000.00.
Law enforcement’s rationale for arresting D.A. was that upon their arrival at the scene, they spoke to the 911 caller, who told the officer that she had witnessed D.A. “…wash the dog off and take it in the house.”
D.A. was then formally charged with violations of Florida’s “Animal Fighting Act”, and “Animal Cruelty” statutes, thus subjecting D.A. to a maximum term of imprisonment of ten (10) years in the Department of Corrections, as well as $15,000.00 in fines and/or probation, were he to be convicted.
After D.A. paid the exorbitant bond (he is not a wealthy man, and needed to rely upon friends and family to post the bond premium to a local bonding company), he came to us for help. His first priority was to get his own animals back, which he was able to do, after paying substantial fees to St. Lucie County for the privilege of having his dogs placed in ‘jail’, just as he had been.
D.A. flatly denied any involvement whatsoever with the dog fighting. “I’m no Michael Vick”, he told us. The team at JJK/LLC quickly concluded that the key to the case would lay in the 911 calls made on the day of the incident.
Without waiting for the State of Florida to abide by its ‘discovery’ obligations, we issued numerous public records requests in order to identify the 911 caller, in order to locate and question her about what happened that day.
We first obtained copies of the 911 calls themselves, and learned something extraordinary…….that there was not merely one 911 call—there were two. In the first, the eyewitness called to report the dog fighting. But in the second call, which was received by 911 dispatch approximately 20 minutes later, (and after D.A. already was in custody) the caller frantically told 911 that the police were arresting the wrong man.
The caller went so far as to describe the men who had been fighting the dogs, including a detailed description of the clothes they were wearing.
Armed with that information, the team contacted nationally known investigator Jerry Lyons of Jeremiah Lyons Investigations (firstname.lastname@example.org) to locate the 911 caller and obtain her sworn statements. Despite having precious little information with which to work, Lyons was able to find not only the 911 caller, but another eyewitness who substantiated everything the caller said not only to Lyons, but on the original 911 call.
The caller told us something else.
She said that while D.A. was sitting in the police car, with the officer present, she implored the lawman to understand that he was arresting the wrong man. The officer elected instead to ignore her.
We supplemented discovery with the newly acquired information, and the Government, quick as flash, dropped all charges against D.A. (Not really—-We supplemented discovery on May 25th, and then again on June 3rd—-the government did not dismiss all charges until July 7th, as we said at the top of this blog…..just a few weeks ago).
I really wish I had some glib, summary way of describing D.A.’s story; but in reality, there is really nothing very glib about it. A man’s life, physically, emotionally and financially, was ruined for seven months based on cursory, bad police work, uncaring employees of animal control, the Fort Pierce Police Department, and others.
Believe it or don’t. D.A. literally cried with joy when we told him the charges were dismissed.