I swear we're "circling the bowl" as a country if this kind of crap goes on.
Animal cruelty case yields 'doggone' dismissal
June 6, 2007
By Peter Hirschfeld Times Argus Staff
CHELSEA â€" A woman facing jail time for "staring" at a police dog had charges against her dropped Monday after an Orange County prosecutor viewed videotape of the alleged crime.
Jayna Hutchinson, now of Lebanon, N.H., was scheduled for a jury trial this week on a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals.
A Vermont State Police sergeant said Hutchinson was intoxicated and stared at his police dog in a "taunting/harassing manner" last July while officers were in the process of investigating a reported melee outside a West Fairlee establishment.
"Prosecuting a woman for staring at a police dog is absurd," said Kelly Green, a public defender appointed by Vermont District Court in Orange County to represent Hutchinson. She likened the act to giving a police officer the finger â€" a form of expression protected by rights accorded under the First Amendment.
"After looking at the video, I did not think it was worthwhile proceeding," Orange County State's Attorney Will Porter said Tuesday.
He said it would be difficult to prove that Hutchinson's behavior met the statutory standard for cruelty to animals, which in this case would have required that Hutchinson "intentionally torment(ed) or harass(ed) an animal owned â€¦ by a police department."
According to an affidavit, Hutchinson approached Sgt. Todd Protzman on the night of July 31 as he and at least three other officers were investigating a fight. Hutchinson, who later registered a .218 blood-alcohol content, told Protzman she wanted to report that she had been beat up the night before by one of the men involved in the fight, according to Green.
Green said the video showed Protzman mocking Hutchinson's appearance.
"I think his comment about Jayna's looks revealed the real reason he arrested her," Green said. "I'd venture a guess to say that if she'd been small and pretty and had been complaining of being assaulted, he may have done more to investigate her claims."
Porter said he saw no indication of improper behavior by Protzman and that he was doing his best to deal with a very intoxicated person.
"Ms. Hutchinson was very intoxicated. Did he have some abrupt comments toward her? Yeah," Porter said. "He had some curt responses to get her out of his hair so he could attend to what he was there for."