Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why the Louisville Man Accused of "Puppy-Kicking" May Walk Free...

The first lady, Michelle Obama, is making a trip to this great Commonwealth.  Specifically, she will visit Louisville, Kentucky, this Thursday.  Naturally, this is a time to put on your clean drawers and iron your shirt.  Wash and wax your car.  Get a haircut.  Time to put forth your best image. 

This is NOT the time to be in jail on puppy kicking charges.  Pursuant to WLKY:

According to the report, Ronnie McCracken Jr., 38, was angry at the female neighbor; the neighbor said she heard McCracken's girlfriend yelling for help and saying McCracken was going to kill her, so the neighbor called police.

There are some holes in this story.  I’m not sure how we get from “angry at the girlfriend” (presumably for making “sloppy, slimy eggs”) to “kicking the puppy.”  Regardless, the report skips to:

Witnesses told her that McCracken had kicked the puppy out of his apartment.

It’s a little ambiguous to say that you “kicked a puppy out of your apartment” because that might mean that the puppy was freeloading and not paying its share of the rent.  So you made it find another apartment.  Or it might mean that you engaged in animal abuse by physically abusing the puppy.  We can probably assume that the allegation is the latter.

McCracken's girlfriend came outside and picked up the puppy, and according to the report, McCracken told her that if she didn't have the puppy put down, he would kill it.  After getting into a vehicle, McCracken was seen kicking the puppy again.

That last part is pretty unambiguous.  So this guy is accused of cruelty to animals.  Let’s see what that means, exactly.  KRS 525.125 covers Cruelty to Animals in the First Degree, and provides:

 (1) The following persons are guilty of cruelty to animals in the first degree whenever a four-legged animal is caused to fight for pleasure or profit:
(a) The owner of the animal;
(b) The owner of the property on which the fight is conducted if the owner knows of the fight;
(c) Anyone who participates in the organization of the fight.
(2) Activities of animals engaged in hunting, field trials, dog training, and other activities authorized either by a hunting license or by the Department of Fish and Wildlife shall not constitute a violation of this section.
(3) Cruelty to animals in the first degree is a Class D felony

It looks like KRS 525.125 is inapplicable because the allegations were not such that Mr. McCracken is charged with dog fighting.  Let’s move on to KRS 525.130 and see if there is any ammunition that this great Commonwealth can use against this alleged puppy kicker.  KRS 525.130 covers Cruelty to Animals in the Second Degree, and provides in pertinent part:

(1) A person is guilty of cruelty to animals in the second degree when except as authorized by law he intentionally or wantonly:

(a) Subjects any animal to or causes cruel or injurious mistreatment through abandonment, participates other than as provided in KRS 525.125 in causing it to fight for pleasure or profit (including, but not limited to being a spectator or vendor at an event where a four (4) legged animal is caused to fight for pleasure or profit), mutilation, beating, torturing any animal other than a dog or cat, tormenting, failing to provide adequate food, drink, space, or health care, or by any other means;

(4) Cruelty to animals in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor

This statute is a trainwreck.  The ambiguity is a serious problem.  The first part of subsection (1)(a) is completely inapplicable, because it refers to abandonment, and not to physical abuse.  The second part is inapplicable because this wasn’t a dog fight.  And then the statute just gets completely disjointed.  After the parenthetical, there are just a couple of words that don’t seem to be connected to any other stanza of the subsection.  “Mutilation, beating, torturing any animal other than a dog or cat, …” isn’t written very well.  The only word that really applies to Mr. McCracken is “beating” because he was alleged to have kicked the puppy.  But – since there isn’t a connection between “beating” and a previous stanza of the subsection, “beating” seems to refer to “any animal other than a dog or cat.”  Which, if true, means that Mr. McCracken is not guilty of this crime.

Either way, the statute is a serious problem.  The “rule of lenity” requires that any ambiguity in a statute be construed in favor of the criminal defendant, and against the Commonwealth.  If the Judge correctly applies the law, this case should be dismissed.

Which is unfortunate, if the allegations are true.

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