The headline says it all, but I suppose for the sake of a blog post I will say more. Back in May, I reported that the district attorney for the case involving Sugar the Cat, decided that no criminal charges were needed for the officer. The DA, in his endless wisdom, instead decided a citation (equivalent to jaywalking) for animal cruelty was all that was needed for a cop that killed a friendly family cat.
Well, yesterday that officer appeared in court on the charge. He was followed into the court by a number of members of the police administration in full uniform, a high priced police lawyer (paid for by the taxpayer) and a team of "witnesses".
WFMZ News reported:
On Monday, District Judge Jacqueline Taschner in Palmer Township found Pursell not guilty of the animal cruelty charges the district attorney's office had brought against him after a lengthy investigation. Taschner's ruling, though, was not without a scathing rebuke.
"You can sit there and smirk because you won," Taschner told Pursell during Monday's hearing. "But what you did was not right. It just wasn't criminal."
The animal cruelty charges against Pursell came after Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli determined that Pursell did not act maliciously when he shot the cat but that the evidence failed to show that the cat was seriously injured and that killing it was the only humanitarian option.
The killing of the cat also prompted an online petition calling for Pursell's termination that more than 100,000 people signed and an outcry by the community and animal rights activists
During the investigation, Morganelli said Newhart didn't have a clean slate when it came to the care of his pets: He had three other incidents in which his pets escaped without collars, including one involving Sugar.
Morganelli said Monday that, during the investigation, his office was under public pressure to pursue a more serious misdemeanor cruelty charge.
Newhart choked up as he described receiving and identifying Sugar's body. Pursell had placed it in a borough dumpster that Sunday night so road workers could bury it the next day.
Testimony on Monday hinged not on whether Pursell had shot Sugar — it was clear that he had — but whether the shooting was justified. Pursell said he shot the animal because he thought it was rabid and didn't have an owner. He also said he didn't have any gloves, blankets or cages to contain the cat until Monday morning when he could have taken it to a veterinarian or animal shelter.
Pursell's chief, Kim Moyer, testified that his officers are at their own discretion when dealing with rabid cats.
Pursell said he also based his decision on his prior knowledge that feral cats were a problem in the area and that Catasauqua borough next door had recently reported a number of rabid cats.
On the stand, Pursell described an animal that was limping, had injured back legs, was bleeding from a wound on its side and had fur falling out in chunks.
Veterinarian Nate Stanglein, who examined Sugar's body after Newhart had picked it up, testified that he could not say for certain if Sugar had rabies — which usually takes "weeks or months" to show itself, but can appear suddenly.
Stanglein said he would have had to send a sample of the cat's brain tissue to a laboratory in Harrisburg. But he didn't do that, he said, because Newhart hasn't asked him to.
Stanglein said he couldn't determine if the animal had any diseases or injuries besides its bullet wound.
In her ruling, Taschner said she didn't believe the cat had rabies and thought its mention was "a red herring."
Given the circumstances, defense attorney Gary Asteak said in his closing arguments, Pursell made the best possible choice with the tools he had available.
"He was acting as a police officer must," Asteak said. "He was not provided with the tools to do anything else other than what he did. He did what he had to do."
He did what he had to do?! This animal was not injured. The cop told the caller that he would put it down before he even saw the animal. He executed a friendly house cat that was running away from him and then picked it up and threw it in a dumpster. The owner had to climb in said dumpster to recover his dead animal in order to give it a proper sendoff.
Yet another case of blue privilege. Please tell me, where are all of the good cops for the Newhart family?
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