Friday, March 20, 2015

Justice Delivered for Braveheart: The Sentencing

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but after 18 months, Braveheart got justice today.

Gabriel Sinclair Lee received his sentence today from Judge Mosley in Caddo District Court. It's been a long journey. Before sentencing, Braveheart's family was allowed to address the court.

Brave's owner, Bo Spataro, asked Judge Mosley to recall the testimony of Dr. Conduff during the January trial.  Dr. Conduff testified that the dog was extremely emaciated but she was surprised at how alert he was.  In trial, the defense suggested that Brave was so alert because of Mr. Lee's Gatorade cure.  Science tells us differently, Bo explained:

Starvation is torture.  It is the worst kind of torture.  Soon after the absence of food your body begins to use itself to keep the brain alive.  So you stay alert and know what is going on till the end.  Your organs shut down and you dwindle to nothing and die.  Starvation is when the body cannibalized itself.  It is long and painful and merciless, making it the true definition of torture.

He also asked the judge to deny Mr. Lee the privilege from ever owning another animal.

Loraine Guerrero was also prepared to address the court.  Loraine runs the Voice for Braveheart Facebook page and has been on this journey from day one.  The defense tried to disallow her statement, but the judge
overruled and Loraine was allowed to address Mr. Lee.

In her statement, Loraine thanked Gabriel Lee for his "uncaring and inhumane actions to Braveheart" because now he is a "worldwide sensation" and known in almost every country around the world.  She explained that there are over 85,000 signatures on a petition for his justice and that almost 19,000 people get up every morning and visit the Voice for Braveheart page.  She went on:

Herein lies the problem:  Do I plead for the harshest sentence or do I show compassion, which you have proven you have none.  While I want you to pay the ultimate price for what you did to Braveheart, I don't want your family to suffer.  Did that thought ever cross your mind as you watched a starving, sick puppy, chained and dying on the floor of the storage building you didn't pay rent on and were told not to come back to, and yet, because of your love for dogs, you neglected to tell the owner, who is a Vet Tech, that there was a puppy locked in the unit!
As she closed, Loraine told Lee she thought about bringing pictures of Brave today, happy, healthy and loved, but did not because "you haven't earned the right to see those."

The defense moved to have Loraine's statement thrown out; the judge overruled.

Lee was sentenced to six months jail time which was suspended; eight months supervised probation, one year unsupervised probation.  He must pay $100 fine plus court costs.  He must pay $60 monthly probation fees. In addition, he can't own animals for the entire probation period -- if he does, he goes to jail.

So.  While the sentence is the best the judge could do given the misdemeanor verdict found by the jury in January, I still felt anger and sadness when I heard the verdict.

Prosecutor Holly McGinniss said it was actually one of the toughest sentences she had seen handed down on a misdemeanor.

But it doesn't feel good enough, does it?

As best I can calculate, Gabriel Lee is going to be out about no more than $2500 on this deal.  The taxpayers paid for his attorney.

As civilized citizens we must work to get the animal cruelty laws strengthened.  They simply aren't tough enough.  There's no real deterrent to people who have no conscience.  Dog fighting, for example, is still a huge problem.  There must be real penalties for abuse.  The statute needs to be rewritten.  The difference between aggravated animal cruelty and simple animal cruelty came down to one word - intent.  The jury simply could not figure out the difference, and apparently, decided to err in favor of the human rather than the dog.

I will never understand how failing to get adequate care for a starving dog is simple animal cruelty.

But.  Here we are.  Braveheart is still a winner, but there are so many other Bravehearts out there.  We fight on.  We fight for Lucky, for T-Bone, for every other abused and neglected animal who suffers at the hands of the humans who are supposed to take care of them.  We are advocates and we will rally for stronger laws and tougher penalties.

Thank God for Bo and Ronda Spataro for seeing this case through to the end, and for all the other members of the Braveheart family (there are many!) who have fought for justice.

Today, justice did the best she could do.




See Braveheart's journey here.  And please follow A Voice For Braveheart page on Facebook.

Added:  I corrected a typo in Mr. Lee's sentence - it is 8 months supervised; one year unsupervised.

(Photos courtesy of A Voice for Braveheart).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Lucky and T-Bone Story Gets Personal and Nasty

BREAKING: Lucky and T-Bone are out of CPAS; preliminary word is that they are at a veterinarian's office; their heart worms are worse than initially indicated and the dogs are not in as good condition as initially indicated.  Please go to the Go Fund Me page for them and donate what you can.  It's safe.  Anything that is left over will go to Robinson's Rescue.  More details as they come.



The story about Lucky and T-Bone is changing so quickly I almost need to live-blog it rather than try to do a finished post.

While the advocates for these dogs really just want to focus on the dogs, Caddo Animal Services and Councilman Stephanie Lynch have turned this into a racial story and a personal story.

The backstory:  A concerned citizen saw two neglected, starved dogs living in inhumane conditions, reported it on March 6, and followed up until his complaint was addressed.  Caddo Animal Control went to the house and seized the dogs on March 8.

The dogs were vetted at the shelter and found to have heart worms, hook worms, and whip worms and were malnourished.

PetSavers is one of the rescue groups that stepped up and offered to take the dogs from the shelter, place them with reputable fosters and pay for their treatment.  They were declined.

Shelter director Everett Harris called a press conference on Wednesday, March 11,  and attempted to make the case that the shelter can take care of the dogs just as well as a rescue or foster situation.

On Monday, March 16, the Caddo Parish Commission met in their regular work session and various rescue groups were in attendance to have their three minutes to address the Commission regarding the care of the dogs.

Harris also shared this puffy propaganda video of the dogs living in an apparent idyllic paradise at the shelter.  (I can't embed the video but it's on the Caddo Animal Services Facebook page.)  Of course, Harris complained that the rescue groups were exploiting the two neglected dogs and sure don't come out like this for all the other dogs at the shelter, but I'm sure that's not what he was doing here.

The current story:  I didn't go to the Parish Commission meeting because I had work obligations Monday afternoon (a conference with a parent); up until noon today the video of that meeting was on the Caddo Commission website.  I watched parts of it this morning, before noon.  That video has been taken down:

Parish Commission site, Media Link as of 3/18/15 


Now why in the world would that video be taken down?  The Caddo Commission always records their meetings and posts them to their website.

My guess is that the video was taken down because at about 22:26 - 26:10 Shreveport Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch stepped to the microphone for her three minutes of time.  Ms. Lynch represents
District F, Mooretown, where the dogs were seized.

It's not really clear why Ms. Lynch chose to involve herself in an Animal Services issue except that this occurred in her district and she felt like she should have been notified at some point.  Since you can't see the video anymore, thankfully she was quoted at KTBS:

If there's a problem there, we can take care of it.  If there's an issue concerning any of our constituents, we can take care of it.  I don't need anybody from Bossier or any other part of Caddo parish, Shreveport coming into Mooretown to handle a situation without allowing the elected officials...to deal with the situation."  She also suggested that rescues work with the original owners who signed over ownership to CPAS, so that the dogs could be returned to them.  "They want the dogs back," she said.

Here is a screencap of the KTBS story:



(Just in case it disappears, too).  For now, there is video of Lynch saying the above remarks.

Even further, and not on the KTBS video, Lynch opened her remarks saying that she, too wanted the dogs; everybody wants the dogs, she said.  "I'll throw my name in there too, I want the dogs."  She went on to say that "There may be two white people that live in Mooretown -- maybe two.  It's a predominately black community and a community that takes care of its own."

Now why in the world would she interject race into a welfare concern about two dogs?

Councilwoman Lynch's remarks were making the rounds on social media and local news yesterday, March 17, when former news reporter Chris Redford posted this query on his Facebook page:

Facebook:  3/17/15


Good question.

It wasn't too long before Councilwoman Lynch jumped into the conversation:

Facebook 3/17/15


To be fair, I can't find where Ms. Lynch said anything about white people not understanding hard times.  Not saying it isn't there, just that I haven't been able to find it.  It's possible someone at the meeting heard her say it, but I don't know that.

The source of her outrageous comments was the Caddo Commission video that isn't available any longer -- the comments where she said Mooretown is a black community that takes care of its own.

The Shreveport City Councilwoman spent the rest of her evening engaging the people commenting on Mr. Redford's post:

Facebook 3/17/15

And later:

Facebook 3/17/15


And later:

Facebook 3/17/15

Get that:  "In no way" does she "care about what most of you have expressed in your comments...".  And ""no one person can say they pay my salary," she said; true enough.  Only the taxpayers, but she doesn't care what you think, so there you go.

There's more:

Facebook 3/17/15

Again, to be fair to Ms. Lynch, there was trash talk on all sides, but shouldn't a city official refrain from such behavior on social media?  Not according to Ms. Lynch; even the pros do it:

Facebook 3/17/15

This sort of thing went on for hours last night.  I finally got bored with her and went to bed.

March 18, 2016:  Today the plot thickened.  And got nasty.  The photographer that volunteers her time to Companions of Caddo Animal Services and who has been taking beautiful photographs of the shelter dogs (109 dogs and 67 cats - many of whom were adopted because of her) was refused admittance today to the shelter to take her photographs.

Not only that, Everett Harris said he was in fear for his life from her and called the police.

The photographer spoke at the Parish Commission meeting Monday.

Coincidence?

Fear for his life?

That photographer is devastated.

Let me remind you that the Caddo Parish Animal shelter has a 72% euthanasia rate for dogs and over 80% for cats.  They need all the help they can get.


All of this because some people wanted to help two starved, neglected dogs.  People are getting personal, getting attacked, and reputations are being damaged.

There is no reason this should have gotten this nasty.  None whatsoever.

There's no reason Mr. Harris should not release the two dogs to a rescue and save the taxpayers the money.  Apparently, the Caddo Animal shelter will treat heart worms in your neglected dogs and give them back to you.  I wonder if all the dogs in the shelter are being treated for their parasites?

Why make this so personal?  What is the motive for Caddo Animal Services and why does Councilwoman Lynch feel the need to take to Facebook to insult people, call them names, and make this a racial issue?

What in the world is going on in our parish and city government?

The Caddo Parish Commission will have their regular meeting tomorrow afternoon, should you decide you want to go watch this circus.


UPDATE:  Remember, once you put something on the internet, it's never really gone.  Here's the video of the Caddo Commission that they don't want you to see) (thanks to some folks with techie skills!:





Sunday, March 15, 2015

Change is Needed at Caddo Animal Services

Citizens concerned about the welfare of two starved and neglected dogs have united to enact change at the administration at Caddo Animal Services who, once again, do not seem to have the actual welfare of animals at heart.

On March 6, 2015, two starved Pitbull dogs were reported to Caddo Animal Services by a concerned citizen. The dogs were severely malnourished and had no shelter; nothing but a small piece of foam to sleep on.  CPAS responded, gave the owners 24 hours to improve the living conditions for the dogs and that was it.  The original complainant followed up with the Shreveport police department when conditions were not improved as ordered, and Caddo Animal Control did not follow up.  After SPD was contacted, CPAS again returned to the home and seized the two dogs.  No charges were filed against the owners; the owners signed a release of ownership of the dogs to CPAS.

The dogs were evaluated and found to have heart worms, whip worms and hook worms.

The mission statement of Caddo Animal Services:
The Caddo Parish Animal Services mission is to protect the citizens of Caddo Parish from dangerous, nuisance, and uncontrollable animals and ensure the protection and welfare of domestic animals.  The Caddo Parish Animal Services Section responds to approximately 13,000 citizen requests each year.  We also provide pet adoptions and help rescue injured animals.
Local rescue groups have attempted to pull the two dogs from Caddo Animal Services but have been refused.

Of course this is all reminiscent of the Braveheart story; you will remember the puppy found in a storage locker in September 2013.  He was very near death and through miraculous efforts he survived, recovered, and is now a symbol of the fight against animal abuse and neglect. When Braveheart was seized by Caddo Animal Services he was declared "evidence" until public outcry forced the agency to release him to the care of a veterinarian.

This situation is alarmingly similar.  The two dogs rescued last week have been named Lucky and T-Bone.  There is a Facebook group where supporters have now garnered help from animal rescue workers all over the country who want to help and who have the know-how to get it done.  They have posted a petition calling for the release of Lucky and T-Bone to a rescue group. At this time the petition has over 2,800 signatures garnered in just about 24 hours.  There is also a GoFundMe page to raise money for vetting which has raised over $1300.00.

Rosheen Rayburn works in animal rescue in Arizona and runs the highly visible Rally Against Animal Abuse page and website.  She put together this video that succinctly states the situation:



After this story hit social media last week, Caddo Animal Services director Everett Harris was hit with a barrage of emails and phone calls asking that the dogs be released to a rescue.  Harris refused and also refused to let concerned animal groups see the dogs.  A shelter volunteer reported that the two dogs were being held outside in the stray/hold pen; the weather last week in Caddo was cold with a constant rain.

Harris held a hastily called press conference to reassure the public that the shelter can care for the animals "just like they can," referring to the rescue groups asking for the dogs; he took no questions during the conference.

Harris's reluctance to release the dogs to a certified rescue is a concern.  Bo Spataro, owner of Braveheart and a warrior for animal rights posted this comment on Facebook last week:

Let's do the right thing. And Caddo doesn't have to go very far to learn how to work with rescue. JUST WALK ACROSS THE RIVER DUDE. What government agency wouldn't let the private sector help them. We have the money. He have the resources. We have the heart. Don't tell us how to spend our money... just take it. Get out of the way and let "good people" help. Hey new mayor. You gonna keep being so animal UNFRIENDLY over there across the river. Dig in on how your commisioners keep thinking this 100k plus year employee is doing a good job. More to it than fresh paint on the walls. YOU HAVE A PUBLIC OPINION PROBLEM. And this problem has merit. Read your email. ~ Bo

Valid points.

Caddo Animal Services has a 72% euthanasia rate because they refuse to work with rescue groups; Bossier Parish has a significantly lower rate because they do work with rescues.  Look at the numbers:

Bossier:



Caddo:



72% of the dogs and 87% of the cats that go to Caddo Animal Services are euthanized.  That's a problem.

The problem in this case is leadership; Everett Harris's refusal to do the best thing for the animals in his facility has been documented; he has been rude and abrasive to the public on numerous occasions.  During the Braveheart crisis when his agency refused to release Braveheart, Harris was verbally abusive to rescuers who offered help.

I get that his is a high stress position, but he could alleviate that stress by accepting help.

As citizens of Caddo Parish we need to demand a change.  Caddo Animal Services must reevaluate their position with rescue organizations.  All you have to do is look at those numbers for Bossier Parish to see that there is room for improvement in Caddo.  There must be a change of leadership at Caddo Animal Control.

To initiate this change, please contact the Caddo Commission:

Wwilson@caddo.org
mlinn@Caddo.org,
mThibodeaux@Caddo.org, sgagewatts@Caddo.org,
jbowman@Caddo.org,
mwilliams@Caddo.org,
ddominic@Caddo.org,
dcox@Caddo.org,
ljohnson@Caddo.org,
lbaker@Caddo.org,
jescude@Caddo.org,
kepperson@Caddo.org,
jsmith@Caddo.org

The email address for Everett Harris, Director of Caddo Animal Services is eharris@caddo.org

Write to them all and demand that they first release these dogs to PetSavers who has volunteered to pull them, and then demand that Everett Harris resign in favor of a director that truly cares about the high kill rate at our shelter.

If you can, please attend the Caddo Commission meeting Monday, 3/16/15 and step up for your three minutes to speak to the commission about this problem.  The meeting is at Government Plaza at 3:30.  Even if you don't want to speak, come show your support.

Caddo Animal Services is an embarrassment to our community; we have got to do better.

An Important Petition

I'm working on a post for later this evening about the latest crisis at the Caddo Animal Shelter but for now, please visit this page and sign this petition if you can.

The latest concern is about two malnourished and neglected dogs that were picked up by Caddo Animal Services after a concerned citizen reported the situation.  The dogs are sick with parasites, starved, and need specialized care.  In a flashback to the Braveheart story, Caddo refuses to release these dogs to rescue groups who are volunteering to care and to pay for treatment for these dogs.

Part of Caddo Parish Animal Control's responsibility is working "closely with rescue organizations and humane societies to save as many pets as possible."  It is time for animal officials to care more about the animals, their relations with the public who pays their salaries, than power and money.  There is absolutely no reason T-Bone & Lucky shouldn't be put in the care of a rescue organization, and there is no reason for our public officials to ignore public outcry. 

In all likelihood these dogs will needlessly die at the shelter.

There is a Facebook group working hard to ensure that doesn't happen.  For now, you can help by signing the petition.

It's time for a change.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Michael Grady and a Sort of Cotton Kings Shreveport Reunion

Michael Grady
Wednesday I got an email from Mike Grady:

HELLO MY SWEET,      HOW ARE THINGS THESE DAYS ? COMING WEST FROM MONROE EN ROUTE TO DALLAS. ARE YOU ALONG THIS TRAIL OVER THE COMING WEEKEND ?  G 

Michael has been in Playa del Carmen for the past few years, popping in and out of Monroe now and then to see his mother. The Carribean suits him; he looks strong and well.  He's not drinking and I'm told he quit smoking.  I've tried to keep up with him through the years and a while back I found a video of him playing in a beach bar in Playa del Carmen, did a blog post  or two about him, and still get emails and comments about where Michael is and what he's up to, and I get the occasional request for his email address. The post has become sort of a portal for people who want to keep up with Grady.  

I've not known Mike as long as a lot of people, only 38 years (damn, I'm getting old...), but he's the kind of fellow that makes an impression.  His distinctive music style has been the genus of several permutations of his original band and the music business is a brotherhood. Musicians that last and that people remember are the ones that take care of their brothers and mentor the up and comers in the business.  Back in the 1970s and '80s there weren't many people in the Shreveport music scene who didn't know who Michael Grady was. 

Robert McLane, Pat Austin-Becker, Michael Grady
Mike played his gig solo sometimes, he played with "Howdy" and "The Cotton Kings."  Around here they played The Royal Room and the infamous Lakecliff Club on Cross Lake, among others.  The Royal Room was a real dive, but that was part of its charm. The dingy beige walls, the red glass candle holders on the laminate tables, the metal & upholstery chairs you see in every dive bar....  There was a window unit in the wall behind the stage, mounted up high, pumping stale air and dripping water.  But nobody cared about the decor; that's not why you went there.  

The Lakecliff (or is it Lake Cliff?)  was on Cross Lake by the water plant; it's hard to find any remnants of it at all now.  But oh man, that place...; it was just a sort of road house, a big, barn looking place with a stage and a bar.  Elvis played there.  It was just a nowhere place that kind of sprung up and took off, but the musicians that played on that stage....

Anyway, so when I got Michael's email Wednesday, of course I'm "along this trail."  Let's get together for coffee, I said.  Then I decided maybe I'd invite David Shelton to come, Michael's drummer back in the day, and a fabulous musician and all around good guy today.  David was all in for a coffee date and suggested we call John Bicknell. Before you know it, we have a reunion on our hands.

David called me Thursday morning and said, "Hey, you know of any place we could get together and play a little while Mike is here?"  

No.  But my brother might.


Michael Grady, Bruce Flett, David T. Shelton, Robert McLane
So my brother gets to working the phones and gets Stan Hoffman in on it who eventually hooks us up with Gary Graves who was booked to play at Lee's Friday night with his new band Funhouse.  Gary is a class act and (see paragraph above) a longtime, well respected Shreveport musician who takes care of his brothers.  I sent Gary a text, told him Mike was in town, and asked if it would be okay if Michael played a bit? 

"Yes," he said.  No hesitation.  

Brothers.

"That's what its all about," Gary said.

So Friday we take over Strawns on Kings Highway. I'm sitting there looking at David Shelton, John Bicknell, and Michael Grady, wondering how long it has been since these three guys were in the same room together when in walks Bruce Flett.  There are cheers and hugs all around and I spent the next hour and a half listening to them all reminisce and tell stories. 

"Remember that time we played in...."

"I was on the bus with...."

"Havana is the place to go now, man!  You'll forget all about Mexico once you go to Cuba."

"I went to visit that sonofabitch ...he's laying in a hammock listening to all the Cotton Kings tapes...."
Micahel Grady and Bruce Flett

(I WANT those tapes!)

"I was sitting there with Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff and...."

I pulled out some old pictures from the 1986 reunion gig they played at The Royal Room and those were passed all around and we all marveled at our youth.  Looking at those guys, and listening to their stories, I remain flabbergasted at how much musical talent this town has produced.

"Oh hell, he probably has half of the remnants of the Lakecliff at his house...."

"What ever happened to Mike Coker?  Where is he?"

"Last I heard he went to Acapulco."

Looking at the pictures..."Damn, my beard used to be black!"  Mike said.  "I got my cataracts done a few years ago and looked in the mirror one day and said 'oh shit!'"  

David Shelton has a memory like an elephant and remembered every gig, every date, every place, every detail.  I'm going to get David and a tape recorder and we're going to write a book.  I'm not sure who our market audience will be, but we need to record all of it.


Michael Grady
It was a grand reunion.  Really.  

Later, I picked up my brother and we went to pick up Stan Hoffman and head to Lee's.  (Getting Stan's equipment into my Jeep, in the dark in the alley behind his house, along with the three of us is a story unto itself.)  

At the bar, the ever-gracious Gary Graves embraced Mike, they caught up, and after Gary's band finished their first set Mike Grady took the stage in Shreveport one more time.  He plugged in his guitar, settling his lean, lanky frame on a bar stool, and started to sing.  The bar-chatter stopped and everyone was watching the legend on the stage. He did three songs, which wasn't nearly enough but it was everything.  

"Who is that?"  I heard behind me.  

"That's Mike Grady."  

"I've heard of him, but I've never seen him play!"

"He's great!  I like it!"

He opened with his classic "Do Wah Ditty," then "Let Him Roll" and then "a song I wrote," he said which was perfect because the chorus is "this is my town, these are my people...".  And indeed this is, and we are.  

Here's a snip:  (sorry for the poor lighting)



And hey, if you guys every figure out what happened to the sparkly tip jar found under the Lakecliff stage that said "Elvis's tips," let me know!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Lady Gaga Amazed Me at the Oscars

Well, this blew me away last night.



Who knew?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dear Neighbors: We Have a Dog Theft Problem

Dear Shreveport-Bossier and neighbors:

We have an animal control problem.  There is an epidemic of pet theft and dog-napping happening right under your nose.  It seems like every day I hear of someone whose dog has been stolen right out of their own yard or car.  What in the hell is going on?

Yesterday, a woman in Highland let her dog out into her fenced backyard and in ten minutes someone opened the gate, snatched the dog, and drove off.

In September a woman's Pomeranian was snatched in Highland:
Lindsey Combest says she didn't see the abduction herself, but a witness tells her that someone in a white 4-door truck pulling lawn care equipment picked her dog Wesson up near the corner of College St. and Centenary St. "It happened in about 15 seconds."
Also in Highland:
Joe Young says he put his 3-year-old terrier Dixie outside on a clip in his Highland neighborhood yard last week, and "45 minutes later the dog was gone." He asked neighbors in the area, thinking that the dog had just gotten loose, and learned there might have been something more sinister behind his pup's disappearance. "I found out that my dog had been picked up by a woman in a reddish-colored Jeep-type vehicle." He says a neighbor told him that they saw the dog-napping happen. "It makes me angry mostly. A dog-napper has got to be one of the worst kinds of person, I mean that's next to kidnapping as far as I'm concerned."
In Bossier Parish five boxer puppies were stolen.

There are countless reports of stolen -- not lost -- dogs on social media.

The Shreveport Pets section of Craigslist has at least a dozen pitbulls for sale right now; those ads often include a photo of the worn out, over bred mother to prove the dog's "champion blood line." There are other breeds there too: Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, an Akita....

There is a huge dog fighting problem in our area and almost certainly the rash of stolen pets is linked to this problem.

In January 2014 Jody Lowery with KTBS reported on the local dog fighting epidemic:
 Just last November, the SPCA found 16 pit bulls at a property in Gregg County, thought to have been used in dog fighting. Those dogs are said to be linked to an August multi-state bust involving Texas. It was the second largest in history where 367 dogs were originally rescued across the South. Then in March, two people were arrested in East Texas and nearly 100 dogs seized.
Lowrey points out that this area is perfect landscape for dog fighting because of all our rural areas and piney woods.  Lots of places to hide.  This is a nasty business that the perpetrators would like to keep hidden; it comes with a variety of other crimes.  Drugs, gambling, theft top the list.

Just two months after Lowery's report, a dog-fighting ring in Sabine parish was discovered:

Ten people were arrested in Sabine Parish over the weekend, accused of dog fighting. 
Saturday, around 11:00 p.m., the Sabine Parish Sheriff's Department along with several deputies from the DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Departed, executed a raid on a suspected dog-fighting operation on Hicks Drive. 
Two pit bulls were reportedly in the pit at the time of the raid. The dogs were taken to the Sabine Animal Shelter. Their condition as well as the condition of other animals on the property are unknown at this time. 
According to the Many Police Department's Facebook page, ten people, from as far away as Gibsland, Louisiana, were arrested and two juveniles were also at the scene. 
What police found there was horrible.

This is a real problem in our area and it's past time we faced it and did something about it.

There seems to be a number of factors contributing to this problem:

1.  The laws and penalties are not severe enough; the laws on the books are not clear enough.

2.  Dog-fighting is so secret and so hidden that not enough of the right people know it's a problem.

3.  It's a horribly unpleasant subject and any article about it often comes with graphic photos of abused and mutilated dogs; nobody wants to see that.  (How often do you change the channel or mute the TV when those poor shelter dogs look at you through cages while Sarah McLaclan's ASPCA commercial comes on?  Hell, even she changes the channel!)

4.  It's dangerous to get too involved in exposing these rings; this is big money.  These people are serious.

So, what can we do about this?

First, learn about what's going on. Pay attention in your neighborhood and learn who your neighbors are and their pets.

Monitor social media sites such as Shreveport/Bossier Lost and Found Pets or Lost and Found Pets Shreveport/Bossier on Facebook.  If they're stealing dogs in your neighborhood, you'll probably hear it there first.

Do not leave your dogs unattended outside.  If you work and you have a dog that stays outside during the day be sure your gates are locked and your neighbors can help keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

Be part of your neighborhood - help watch for suspicious vehicles or suspicious activity.  If you see someone stealing a dog, call 911 just like you would if you saw someone breaking into a house.

Educate yourself.  The Animal Legal Defense Fund is an excellent resource and has a great section on Pet Theft.  Follow them on Facebook.

Many of these stolen dogs are used for bait dogs.  Like many people, I knew what a bait dog was, but it wasn't until a few months ago when I helped rescue a starved, abandoned dog that I learned what really happens to bait dogs.  This dog had odd indentions on his tail that looked like a rubber band had been left on it for too long.  I assumed someone had tried docking his tail with a rubber band; the vet tech told me that dog fighters tie the dog's tail to a stake in a dog fighting ring so he can't get away.

This dog had defense wounds all over his face and legs; his ears were chewed all along the edges, and he was starved.  His feet were flat because he had never the proper nutrition necessarily for the bones in his feet to develop properly.

And still this dog was full of love and trust for the human that rescued him.

This dog was a bait dog in Bossier City.

We must do something about this problem in our area.  We have to lobby our legislators to strengthen the laws and up the penalties.  I firmly believe that the jury in the Braveheart trial came back with a verdict of "Simple Animal Cruelty" against abuser Gabriel Lee because the difference between "Simple" and"Aggravated Animal Cruelty" was just one word - intent.  The distinction between the misdemeanor and the felony was too close to distinguish.

This must be changed.  The language must be rewritten.

Not everyone is a dog lover; I get that.  But this is a real problem in our community and has ramifications for us all.  The thieves that steal dogs are horrible people that will go to any lengths to protect their cash source.  They are dangerous.

Go here and get started.






Sunday, February 8, 2015

Take a Trip to the Barkus and Meoux Parade 2015

Here are a few photos from the Barkus and Meoux parade today:

Grand Marshall Braveheart was quite the celebrity!  Very cool under pressure.



He met many fans today.


This is Angel:


And Mrs. T:


Of course we had lots, and lots of dogs but there were also pigs, goats, cats, rabbits, and chickens.



We had dogs dressed up as people and people dressed up as cats.



And people dressed up for the Bone Appetite theme!



People and dogs dressed alike...



Dogs dressed as bones...



Goat tacos...



And, of course, Blue Dog...



This event has grown so much since the days when it was a little neighborhood thing at A.C.Steere park!  The turnout each year is huge.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cane Juice: One of Louisiana's More Interesting Scandalous Novels

In the course of my research on Cammie Garrett Henry, I've come across some truly wonderful, all but forgotten literature by Louisiana writers.  I've lived in this state my entire life and was at least in my thirties before I ever heard of Lyle Saxon.  I never heard of Ada Jack Carver until I began my research on Mrs. Henry.  And now, there's John Earle Uhler.

Mr. Uhler was an English professor at LSU and in 1931 he published a book:  Cane Juice:  A Story of Southern Louisiana.  

And then he got fired.

Mr. Uhler was a native of Pennsylvania but came to Louisiana in 1928 to teach freshman English at the university.  His book centers around the "Cajun Gorilla," Bernard Couvillon, who was born and raised on Bayou Lafourche.  Bernard's father runs a sugar plantation and as the novel begins, sugar in Louisiana isn't doing very well.  The borer and the mosaic are taking their toll and the cane is no longer producing much juice; the mills that used to run constantly are falling quiet.

Bernard, as it turns out, is a pretty intelligent fellow and because of his excellent grades in school, (well, except for English - most people around the bayou still spoke French then...), the local police jury awards him a scholarship to LSU.  Bernard dreams of going to the university sugar school in order to learn just enough to save the sugar production in Louisiana.  His father is torn; he wants Bernard to stay and work with him.  "We don't need no book learnin' to raise sugar," Bernard's father said.  "This boy work wit' me in the mill...".

But, Bernard packs his $2 suitcase and walks down the levee to the university where he is promptly met with the ritual hazing of freshmen ("dogs") by upperclassmen and his temper is tested.

The book is filled with local color and Uhler's plot moves quickly.  As a piece of regional literature, it's as good as anything I've read.  It lacks the syrupy moonlight and magnolia prose that so many books of local color seem to have.  The protagonist, Bernard, is beautifully drawn and you pull for his success from the very beginning.  The dialect is just enough without being over done.

"Sugar-raisin's dead in Loosana," Bernard is told, but he refuses to give up his dream of saving the industry.

At the university, Bernard meets an assortment of characters from his mentor, Professor Paul Gatz, to the lovely Juliette Filastre who dates Morgan Fairchild, the star quarterback on the football team.  We also meet Bernard's sister with the dubious reputation, who lives in New Orleans.

When Mr. Uhler's book came out in 1931, it ignited quite the controversy.  The powers that be at LSU rather objected to the portrayal of the university - the hazing, the wild parties on the levee or at abandoned plantations in the countryside.  Chapter 25 describes a party at a deserted plantation house, Shadowlawn, which was now "waiting for the tragic end that has befallen so many of the old Louisiana river houses...within a few years it will go into the Mississippi."  At this party there is an abundance of drinking and more than a few intoxicated young women, one of whom makes very direct advances toward Bernard which the boy gently refuses because he doesn't want to take advantage of her in her intoxicated state and notes as well, "You' only a babee."  Bernard, in fact, takes measures to protect the young lady's reputation before he leaves the party.

Scenes like this one, while quite tame by our standards today, led to vigorous objections about Uhler's book by the Right Reverend Monsignor E. L. Gassler of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Baton Rouge.  Monsignor Glasser objected to the young people in the novel "seeking out dark corners" at these parties, insisting that none of the fine ladies in southern Louisiana would act in such a way.  Scandal!

He also highly objected to the portrayal of university boys (and sometimes ladies) "breaking the Eighteenth Amendment" and consuming (sometimes in great quantities) alcohol.  There is one scene where at a party in a hotel where Bernard is challenged to a drinking contest - a challenge that actually Juliette Filaster finds offensive, not so much for the use of alcohol but that it targeted and was mean-spirited to, Bernard.

As it turns out, Huey Long (who never actually read the book) was displeased that an employee of "his university" would write and publish anything that would damage the reputation of the school and so Professor Uhler was fired.  Whether or not Huey Long actually had anything to do with the firing is still a matter of debate, and it, as Thomas W. Cutrer points out in Parnassus on the Mississippi, "cannot at this late date be verified."

In response, Uhler enlisted the aid of the ACLU to get his job back.  He was reinstated within the year.

In Cammie Henry's Scrapbook no. 12, housed at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, there are pages and pages of clippings from newspapers around the state as this controversy unfolded. There is also a letter from Mr. Uhler to Mrs. Henry in which he thanks her for her letter of support and promises to send her an autographed copy of his novel which was sold out all over the state.  Otto Claitor, a frequent correspondent with Mrs. Henry, noted that he simply could not keep the book in stock.

While Cane Juice is probably not considered "fine literature" by the literati, I found it to be a jolly romp through the LSU of old and through the cane fields, levees, and plantations of the old south.  At the very least it is one of the more colorful controversies in our state's literary history and one that is worth preserving.

And how did Bernard Couvillon fare at LSU?  Did he save the sugar industry?  You'll have to read the book for yourself!  I found my copy on the third floor of an antique shop in Minden, Louisiana, a nifty little first printing, hardback edition with a tiny bit of water damage to the cover.  It's got a few pages breaking loose from the binding, but to me, it's a treasure.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Snapshots From the Braveheart Trial


"It's just a dog."

*******************

"Redirected aggression."  This is the defense attorney's explanation for why Gabriel Lee was on trial.  As I understood her explanation, he was a victim of "redirected aggression" which is primarily a feline condition and occurs when a cat sees something outside its reach that causes aggression; unable to reach the original stimulus, the cat will lash out at whatever it can reach.

Apparently, according to the public defender, "all these people" are lashing out at Gabriel Lee after seeing something so horrible (a clinically emaciated puppy near death) that they must have a victim for their aggression.

Ergo, Gabriel Lee is the victim here.

What?

********************

Jury selection.  I'm watching the potential jurors as the public defender questions, grills, explains points of law, prods.  (I was not there for the DA voir dire).  Some are very interested; some look nervous, some anxious, and once the bailiff had to wake one of them up.  They are a true mix of our society.  It looks like the system is working...

The public defender is a dead ringer for Jennifer Garner. I bet she gets that a lot.

Is it intentional that voir dire is so repetitive?  That the attorneys repeat the same thing over and over?  The power of suggestion, perhaps?  Do they teach you to talk down to jurors in law school?  To be patronizing?  I honestly don't know -- I do understand that as an attorney dealing with jury selection you are dealing with all levels of intellect and it's important to gather as much information about your jury pool as you can.

Both sides scribble notes.  Sitting behind the public defender, I could see her legal pad (I couldn't read it!) where she had divided the yellow sheet into boxes - one for each potential juror.  I suppose the name of each one was in each box and copious other notes that I could glimpse.  Both sides wrote constantly.  Notes, notes, notes.

***********************

The judge was a large, serious man with a wonderfully expressive face which he kept in "poker face" mode most of the time.  An occasional smile to the bailiff who brought his (coffee?  tea?) to the bench.  A directing glimpse from judge to bailiff, to a nodding potential juror...the bailiff draws water from the cooler and takes it to the juror who lifts head in another attempt at attention.

The judge had a wonderfully resonant voice and as boring as jury directions were when it came time to charge the jury, I listened.

He must have read those directions to hundreds of juries yet he still read with expression.

***********************

After voir dire, day two.  Sitting on the patio at Nicky's unwinding and looking back on the day with the Braveheart crew.  The courtroom had been freezing, absolutely freezing, all day.  The sun on the patio felt good.

The table is filled with chips, salsa, white zinfandel, Dos Equis, tea, ashtrays.

"What is that you're drinking?" Bo asked me.

"Dos Equis.  Here, taste it."

"I think I will!" and takes a sip.  "Hey, I think I'll have one of those!"

Ronda drapes her arm out of the wrought iron patio screen to keep smoke away from everyone; she wraps her arms around the rungs and takes a drag.  Spirits are pretty high and everyone feels good about the way things are going.

"This is the first time I've relaxed since Friday, since the phone calls started," Bo said.

Six jurors and one alternate have been picked.  Five females and one man.  Various ages and race make-up.  We are happy with the jury.  We think they were all pet owners which looks to be an encouraging sign.  We don't talk about the jury much; we talk about Doris's parakeets, the cleft palate puppy Ronda and Bo are fostering, about other ongoing animal cruelty cases everyone is following.

Ronda snags our server and they get into a Spanish lesson about how to say "heart worms" in Spanish.  "There is no word for 'heart worms' in Spanish," Ronda explains.  They eventually figure out something that will suffice.

We sit for several hours on the patio, late lunch, a few drinks, a little down time.

It is nice.

***********************

You cannot wear your glasses perched atop your head in the courtroom.

It is a rule.

Not even reading glasses.

***********************

Before the courtroom is opened each morning, it is inspected and cleared.  Everyone waits in a sort of holding cave in the basement of the courthouse.  There is no cell service in there.  Zilch.  Zero.

Obviously there is no cell phone use in the courtroom.

On the first day of the actual trial there were two girls sitting in observation.  One was from New Zealand and another from California.

"This is like going to the movies for us," one explained.  "We like to go to trials.  We have no idea what this one is about!"

Bo had turned to talk to them and find out who they were.  If it's someone who follows the Braveheart page or someone from a rescue group, he likes to acknowledge them and thank them for coming.

He gave them a very brief summary of the case and showed them a quick picture of Braveheart on his phone.  They were very relieved to know the story had a happy ending.

The girls were looking at pictures on their phones before court started.  The bailiff approached:

"You aren't taking pictures, are you?"

"Oh no sir!  I was just showing her a picture."

The bailiff smiled and moved on.

***********************

Court is a whole lot of hurry up and wait.

Court "begins" at 9:30.  Which means 9:45 or 10.  Except there are always procedural matters and so court begins with a sidebar conference.  Then another recess for fifteen minutes.

Everyone rushes outside to smoke.  We've learned that the handicap entrance/exit is the quickest way - no stairs to fool with.  We still have to go through the metal detector and take off belts when we come back in.

"Give me your lighter."

"Where are your cigarettes."

"How long is the break?"

"I'm freezing in there."

Because Ronda was on the list to testify, we couldn't talk to her until after her testimony.  She stood off by herself to smoke.

I forgot and thought she was maybe upset so I took a couple of paces over,

"You okay?"

She nodded yes.

Jean:  "HEY!  Get back over here!  She can't talk to us!"

Ooops.

Ronda stubbed out her cigarette and we went back inside.

**************************

Opening statements.  The ADA is tall, lithe, graceful.  She looks a little like Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.  She strides in her slim gray suit to the podium, makes eye contact with the jurors who look at her expectantly, and she smiles at them.  She holds their eyes a moment.  It's a warm, sincere smile and she has them.  She begins her statements which quickly became discordant and hard to follow with the multitude of defense objections.

Is the jury getting frustrated, too?  I wonder.

The ADA speaks very quietly, evenly and keeps going as the judge overrules one objection after another.

She speaks maybe ten, fifteen minutes, and wraps up; her co-counsel whispers something to her and the ADA returns to the podium to point out to the jury some things she wants them to pay special attention to during testimony.  One of these things brings a quick objection from the defense which prompts a lengthy sidebar conference.

Another delay.

The jury is ready to get going, to hear the evidence.  This is frustrating.

***************************

Opening statements. The defense begins her opening statements.  She speaks with ease and with confidence; she's doing her job, but she sounds patronizing to me.  That's just me.  The jury is listening to her closely.

She has PowerPoint slides which she puts up to keep the jurors on track.

"Why Are We Here?"

Another one has the text of the statute the defendant has been charged against.  She explains very methodically what the charges are and spends a great deal of time telling them what the judge will say to them later.  She becomes repetitive and some jurors gaze off.  Looking around the courtroom.  Looking at the spectators.

Her co-counsel and the ADA scribble notes incessantly.

There is much strategy to all this!

************************

The defendant is sitting in front of me at the table with his attorneys.  I can only see the back of him except for when he enters and leaves the courtroom.

He spends the entire trial in a black leather jacket with orange strips somewhere on the shoulders or arms (I can't see them), white dress shirt, and slacks.  All of his clothes, including the jacket, look much too large for him.

He listens attentively to the testimony and his attorneys who both whisper to him frequently.  He sometimes slumps down in his chair, his hands clasped in front of him.  Sometimes he sits up and snatches a tissue from the box in front of him and blows his nose.

During closing arguments, he shakes his head repeatedly as the ADA lists the numerous things he omitted doing for Braveheart, like calling a vet.  At one point he let out an exhortation of frustrated air:  "Pffffffffttt!"

*************************

During the defense presentation, the attorney called up at least three, maybe four, close family members to testify that the defendant is a great guy and "he loves dogs!  Very caring!"

"Yes, I would leave my dogs with him!"

I thought, "Well, of course they're going to say that!  It's his close family and his girlfriend of ten years for crying out loud!  Is this supposed to be persuasive?"

***************************

"Redirected Aggression"??

***************************

KSLA posted a news story after day one in which they referenced the wrong Braveheart page.  They referred readers to "Justice for Braveheart," a dog in another state.

How hard is that to check?

***************************

Subway for lunch on Day One.  The line is ridiculous, but it's walking distance from the courthouse, and it smelled really good.

Jean marshalls some tables together outside and homesteads them while we all stand in this line.  Mamma Patt and I eventually reach what we think is the front of the line and move to the counter only to be rebuked by the "sandwich artist" to move back in line until called.

My bad.

We eat quickly.  There is much sharing of cookies and talk turns to the opening statements.  You're dying to know what everyone else thinks, but Ronda is sitting there and she's not yet been recused from the witness sequestration order so she gets nervous about the trial talk and moves away.

It has come much too far for this all to be called a mistrial on some technicality.

She moves to the curb to smoke.

**************************

All the Braveheart crew carry tiny bottles of hand sanitizer with them that have purple, green, and yellow painted on the outside of them.  They are part of a fabulous fundraiser one of their young volunteers has created.  Bo told me that she has raised huge sums of money for animal rescue organizations.

After every smoke break or recess, out comes the hand sanitizer bottles and everyone slathers it on.  That's not a bad thing.

Youth can be so inspirational!

*************************

On day one of testimony there were plenty of seats in the courtroom.  People came and went through the day and the deputies kept the back couple of rows "reserved."

Because of the high emotional impact of this trial there was a very clear law enforcement presence in the courtroom most of the time.

But when the verdict was read?  There were at least 24 armed deputies in the courtroom.  There was one on each end of each row, lining the walls, several in front, one or two at the door, the usual ones behind the bar, and I'm sure quite a few outside.

It was like the OJ verdict was coming down.

**************************

One of the first witnesses was the vet tech who found Braveheart in the locker.  She and her husband owned the storage facility / buildings where Gabriel Lee had rented a slot to refinish cars.  The building he rented apparently had a concrete floor and a garage bay door at each end; you could drive right through it.  Testimony indicated that there was grease of some sort and a fine sanded dust all over the floor.

She testified that she and her husband told Mr. Lee not to come back on the property because he had not paid his rent; that was 9/10.  On September 11, 2013, the witness and her husband went to the locker to change the lock and found a light on and a radio playing.  Because no renter was paying rent anymore to cover these utilities, they went in to turn them off and that's when her husband found the dog.

You know the story.

They thought he was dead.

They were going to bury the dog "on the property" and she had a shovel to pick him up; that's when he blinked.  He was not dead.

Her first thought was to take him to the emergency vet clinic.

Wouldn't yours have been the same?

**************************

The defense made much ado about whether the facility was a garage, a storage building, a locker, blah, blah, blah.

I get her point - her point was it wasn't Storage Wars.  It was a "place of business," she said, where people came and went each day to work.

What difference does it make?

Did you see the picture of the dog?

**************************

"Redirected aggression."

????

**************************

Ronda Spataro was nervous about testifying.  She had come so far to get to this point.

This I noticed about Ronda:  she has the capacity to sit very, very still.

Those benches are hard.  As Doris said, "It's like sitting in a Baptist church all day!"

The first day I sat next to Ronda and I fidgited; crossed one leg and then the other.  Shifted my weight.  Sat on my hands.  Leaned forward.  Rocked my head from side to side to crack the stiffness out of my neck.  Looked around ... the jurors....the judge...the bailiff.....the attorneys.....what time is it?

Ronda sat motionless.  Her expression set ("poker face"), staring straight ahead, hands folded in her lap, leg crossed.  Never moved.  Sometimes she would pull the arms of her sweater down and fold the sleeves around her arms and resume position.

How can anyone be that still for that long?

Nerves.

***************************

When Ronda finally was able to testify, near the end of Day One, she brought tears to my eyes.

The ADA:  "We've spent all day talking about the puppy Braveheart.  Do you know Braveheart?"

Ronda:  "I DO know Braveheart!"  and she smiled.  It was pure love.

It doesn't sound like much, but there was absolutely NOTHING in that room at that moment except her love for Braveheart.

It was everything.

The jury was riveted.

************************

Loraine does most of the posting to the Braveheart Facebook page and on breaks would try to mange texts and put up a quick post about the proceedings.

Loraine has the sweetest face and smile; she's the most positive person I've ever met.  She radiates peace.

Obviously the Braveheart t-shirts were taboo, but did you know that orange is the symbol color against animal abuse?

Loraine and I both showed up in orange on Tuesday.

She carries a prayer rock in her purse.  As we went through these metal detectors and purse scanners multiple times each day, once she pulled this rock out of her purse and showed it to me.  It was a gift someone had given her.  It's a palm sized dark grey smooth rock with silver painting on it.

On the first day of testimony the media was there at the lunch break.  It was KSLA who had erroneously directed folks to the wrong Braveheart page (they corrected that later).

Loraine spoke to them for the group; she's always so eloquent and kind.

Bo:  "Loraine, when have you ever not known exactly what to say?"

She cuts her green eyes at him, smirks, throws a sassy comment his way and then writes pure eloquence on the Facebook page.

*************************

Loraine works with Nova's Heart - an organization that helps feed and care for the pets of the homeless in the area.

Walking to lunch one day, Bo spots a familiar face: a homeless guy with his dog.  Bo shouts and waves at him from across the street.

After lunch we see the guy and his dog in front of the courthouse and we stop to visit.  Loraine recognizes a woman with him and her dog.

These people: Bo, Ronda, Loraine, Jean, all of them, do so much good, so much work for both people and animals that it simply defies logic when people on social media decry all the fuss about "just a dog."

They have no idea the depths to which these people reach to help others.

When the verdict came in, this guy had someone watch his dog for him so he could come in and hear his friend Bo's verdict.

****************************

Ms. Doris came from Mississippi to see this trial.  She is involved in animal rescue and has been for her entire life.  She's a fireball!

Ms. Doris was staying in a hotel in downtown Shreveport which caught on fire thus ruining her clothes for then they smelled like smoke.  She woke up to what she thought was an alarm, then looked out her peephole, didn't see anyone about, opened her door, and saw smoke.

Me:  "Oh my gosh!  Did they evacuate y'all?!"

Doris:  "Well!  I evacuated myself!"

She gathered a terrified young boy and his mother and out they went.

After sitting in the courtroom all day then she went back to the hotel to wash her smoky wardrobe and try to recover her items from her now sealed hotel room.

******************************

Closing arguments.

The ADA again strides up to her podium.  Elegant.  Cool.  Her confidence level has improved and her body language indicates a certain degree of confidence.  She has been chatting and smiling more with her co-counsel and seems more relaxed.

Her closing argument was made for television.

As she went over the possible verdicts the jury could consider, she reminded them that the defendant was charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal.  A lesser charge they could find is "simple cruelty to an animal."

She held up the now famous picture of Braveheart curled up, waiting for death, in the storage locker.

"There is nothing simple about this," she said.

She listed like bullets a lengthy list of things the defendant "omitted" to do.

"OMISSION:  He omitted requesting veterinary assistance" from the vet tech from whom he rented the locker and who had previously offered to give him medicine for the puppy's obvious worms.

"OMISSION," she said again:  he didn't tell anyone there was a dog in the locker when they told him not to come back on the property.

"OMISSION!"  she said:  he didn't give the dog proper food or water - he was clinically emaciated and dehydrated.

She went through at least ten of these...

"OMISSION!"

It was a made for TV delivery.

************************

The law for aggravated animal cruelty in the State of Louisiana:

Any person who intentionally or with criminal negligence mistreats any living animal whether belonging to himself or another by any act or omission which causes or permits unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain, suffering, or death to the animal shall also be guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals.

************************

"Redirected aggression"  

??

************************

"There is NOTHING simple about this."

*************************

"OMISSION":  he FAILED this dog in every sense of the word.

*************************

The public defender's closing arguments were basically that the defendant found the dog three days before he was found, he only checked the box that said he was the legal and rightful owner, or had custodial discretion, on the animal control release because he wanted to take care of the dog and he knew it would have a better life!  

He was giving it Gatorade!  To replace electrolytes!

He was giving it "proper" amounts of food!


She referred back to the emergency vet who said it was "very surprising" that Braveheart showed an interest in food at all in those early hours.

It was all because the defendant "gave her a head start!" with his care!

This poor fellow, this victim of "redirected aggression," saved the dog's life!

He's a hero!

*****************************

He did not tell the owner of that storage facility that he had a dog locked and chained inside.

****************************

I'll be honest.  I was incredulous at the defense closing arguments.  

Astounded.

****************************

The jury is charged, the judge reads pages of jury directions, and trial is in recess until verdict.  The Braveheart crew is exhilarated.  The prosecuting attorney are beaming.  Not celebrating, but confident.  

The back row is filled with deputies and the row before them filled with media.  As we leave the courtroom the media linger in the hallway afraid to venture too far.

Bo Spataro, always, always pleasant and polite, offers to call them when he gets word about a verdict so they, too, can go eat lunch.

We all file out the side exit, through the garage, and the smokers fire up.

We will have lunch at a place right next door to the courthouse on Texas Street, on the corner.  It's close.  

There are about eight of us; we sit down in the nearly empty restaurant, order drinks, peruse the menu, place orders.  

We see our courtroom bailiffs picking up lunches for the jurors.  Our lunch is delayed until the juror orders go out, which is fine.  We want them happy!

As soon as our food starts coming out Bo's phone rings.  

"They have a verdict," he says.  

The waiter, about to place a platter of red beans & rice in front of me pauses:

"You want us to just hold this for you?"  he asks as Bo says "We need checks."

All bundles of butterflies and wondering what this quick verdict means, we dash out.  They promise to hold our food.

Now that's service!

*****************************
We rush to the side entrance of the courthouse and get through the metal detectors and scanners as quickly as possible.  

Nobody has eaten.  Nobody could eat, now.  

Walking briskly down the hall to the courtroom, Loraine stops:  takes deep breaths, and her green eyes look a little alarmed.  

"Are you okay?"  someone asks.

Her eyes fill with tears.  

"Yes."  she says.  

It's fine - everyone has been saying.  Braveheart is already a winner.

But there must be justice, right?

Deputies everywhere.

The tension is incredible.

Doris:  "I've never seen such a police presence in my life!"  This from a woman who attended the Casey Anthony trial.

"What do they think we're going to do?!" she said.

Waiting.

The attorneys and defendant are all in place.  People are rushing in.  Bo kept his promise and let the media know the verdict was in.  They are here.

Finally, the judge enters.  

The jury files in.  I think about Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird, who said that a jury never looks at the defendant if they've convicted him.  

Jean is on one side of Ronda and Bo on the other.  All three have hands clenched in Ronda's lap.

The foreman passes in the verdict.  

The judge looks, scowls, motions them back to the jury room.  

Some technicality.

We stand and sit every time they enter.

The come back in within a few moments, we stand again.

The bailiff reads the verdict.

Guilty of Simple Cruelty to Animals.

Simple Cruelty.

***************************

"There is nothing simple about this!"

****************************

"Redirected aggression!"

****************************

Whispers ripple throughout - 

"Simple!"  

"It's simple, isn't it?  Is that what they said?"

"Simple cruelty!"

**************************

The defendant is handcuffed; it's still a conviction although a misdemeanor and not a felony, now.  Handcuffed and taken away.

*************************

There is relief that it's not a "Not Guilty" verdict but much frustration that it's not "Aggravated."  The difference in the language is so close - whether the abuse was intentional or not.  

I suppose the jurors believed the defense's theory that the defendant was trying to help the dog by bringing him into the "shade, out of the elements."  

******************************

Media everywhere.  They all want to hear from Bo and Ronda.  

Both need a moment to gather thoughts.  

The media complies.

In a few minutes, Bo and Ronda give a statement to the media in front of the courthouse; the frustration is obvious.

"What do you want to say to Mr. Lee?"

"I don't think we have anything to say to Mr. Lee at this point."

How do you feel about the verdict?

It's not what we wanted, but we will live with it.

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It's not what we wanted, but we will live with it.

*******************************

"Redirected aggression."

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Obviously, Braveheart is a winner.  And the Spataros are winners because at the end of the day they get to go home to a beautiful Braveheart.  They are winners because they are good, kind, caring people who are doing good in their community and who have a loving network of friends and family.  
Whatever the verdict was today, they are all winners and there is nothing but positive, good things ahead of them. 

And many more dogs to save!

Go, Brave, go!





Added:  My other writings on Braveheart can be found here, at DaTechGuy blog, and here, on this blog.

(Loraine, I've borrowed your pictures.  Forgive me.  Love ya! )