Originally published on February 19, 2010
By GINA B. GOOD
Justice of the Peace Kent Jasperson June 11 dismissed the case against the cat sanctuary formerly located on Bond Street, called For the Love of Cats and Kittens, or FLOCK.
None of the 15 witnesses subpoenaed by the district attorney’s office had the opportunity to speak during the abbreviated hearing.
The case was lost by the state, at least for the time being, due to legal procedures and timing that attorney Tom Gibson, the corporate counsel for FLOCK, argued went beyond the statute of limitations.
However, on Wednesday, District Attorney Bob Beckett said in an interview, “We are appealing Kent’s decision. He was wrong. We were fully able to try the corporation. The case is going to continue.”
Beckett’s notice of appeal was filed yesterday. Gibson, said that surprised him because he and Beckett’s office had struck a deal that the case would go no further.
“FLOCK was going to write an apology and the stipulation was they would never get into that sort of business again,” said Gibson. In fact, FLOCK still operates in Las Vegas, but does not have a sanctuary.
Gibson argued the amended complaint was filed “literally one working hour before the hearing,” at 4:12 p.m. on Feb. 10 should be stricken. Jasperson agreed.
The amendment added the names of 11 people to the district attorney’s charging document, in place of anonymous “Director Does 1-3, Officer Does 1-3, Officer Does 1-3” and numerous unnamed employees and volunteers who were also identified by the term Doe.
The names on the amendment include members of the executive board.
The litany of charges against FLOCK for abusing and neglecting the animals in their care originated June 5, 2007. The date the DA’s office filed the original complaint, using anonymous John Does, was June 2, 2008. Gibson argued that the statute of limitations of one year to charge individuals had run out one year and 8 months ago.
Attorney Harry Kuehn assisted Gibson, saying, “It was Mr. Beckett” who was at fault “by sitting around for two and a half years.”
After the dismissal, Beckett said, “That’s not fair.” He explained FLOCK’s board had been re-configured, “We had to find out what the culpability of the members of the board were and then go out and investigate that.”
During the short hearing, Gibson said it is his job to point out the state’s mistakes to Jasperson. “This smells like a rotten fish, and it’s not [Deputy District Attorney] Robert Bettinger’s fault. If the people at the top of the food chain at that office did their job, we wouldn’t be here talking about this today.”
Jasperson apparently agreed, saying “If this case bore that much importance to the district attorney’s office, I would assume they would have filed the complaint a whole lot sooner. Now we come here … to finally name the people who are alleged to have committed this travesty against these animals. That is not the defense’s problem.”
Jasperson said the 11 people who were named the day before have rights in the courts, including being properly notified of a charge listed against them. He added they have a right to an arraignment hearing and to obtain counsel if needed. Gibson said he would not be able to represent a group of people who were all named in the same case.
“It’s up to the DA’s office to bring … a charge before the court in a proper time, filed in a proper manner,” said Jasperson.
“The only thing I see in the file is that these animals that were allegedly mistreated, tortured, malnourished or neglected will never have anything done with this because of the way that this has been drug out over and over and continued and continued and filed improperly … Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Jasperson reiterated that there was “not one specific person named” in the filing from 2008. “You cannot charge an organization with a crime, you have to charge an individual,” the judge said. “I’m done. This case is dismissed.”
Bettinger, who objected in court to Gibson saying Beckett put him in a bad situation, said after the hearing he’d been given the case about two months prior and during that time had obtained substantial help from witnesses about the parties who were allegedly responsible for letting the abuse and neglect continue.
Beckett said, “Mr. Jasperson has never practiced law. He doesn’t know the ins and outs of it. We could have just prosecuted the corporation as an entity but we decided to try the members individually. We expected the judge to go along with that.”