Lewis the Cat Cheats the Hangman but Is Placed Under House Arrest for the Remainder of His Life
Lewis, the celebrated tomcat from Fairfield, Connecticut who received worldwide media attention earlier this year when he was placed under house arrest for his alleged involvement in a spate of attacks against women, narrowly avoided he gallows last week when Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Patrick Carroll spared his life.
The five-year-old longhaired polydactyl tuxedo cat, who has been profiled in People magazine, has a page on myplace.com, and an entry in Wikipedia, was however placed under house arrest for the remainder of his short stay on this earth. His owner, real estate agent Ruth Cisero (See photo above of her and Lewis), was placed on two years' probation and sentenced to perform fifty hours of community service in order to settle second-degree reckless endangerment charges that had been leveled against her because of Lewis' alleged misconduct.
Unbeknownst to the lively stray who wandered into Cisero's house on a rainy night five years ago, his fate was up in the air until the last minute because Maureen Bachtig, who was allegedly bitten by Lewis on February 5th, had petitioned the court to have Lewis exterminated. The situation was so dire that Russ Mead, a lawyer with the Best Friends Animal Society, was in court to plead for Lewis' removal to its sanctuary in Kanab, Utah should he have been sentenced to death.
Fairfield resident Marisa Sampieri captured the lynch mob mentality that surrounded the proceedings from the outset when she told CNN on May 23rd, "They want to kill a cat for a scratch. These people have to get a life." (See "Owner Goes to Court to Save Attack Cat.") Besides, as Miguel de Cervantes said a long time ago in Don Quixote, "Those who will play with cats must expect to be scratched."
After failing to secure a death warrant against Lewis, Bachtig and her cat-hating supporters tried unsuccessfully to have the cat declawed. Even state prosecutor Charles Stango, who initially had been willing to drop the case if Lewis were mutilated, reversed himself after he was informed about the medical and behavioral problems associated with this barbaric and inhumane procedure. (See Cat Defender post of June 19, 2006 entitled "Irresponsible Cat Owner Allows Declawed Tomcat Named Jack to Tangle with Black Bear in Northern New Jersey.") Eugene Riccio, who represented Cisero, even went so far as to liken declawing to "giving a pound of flesh."
Predictably, Carroll's decision to spare Lewis' life was greeted with joy by the feline's supporters who shouted "Lewis Will Live! Lewis Will Live!" and disdain by his alleged victims. Rosemarie P. Graves, who drove to Bridgeport from Melbourne, Florida in order to be with Lewis in his hour of need, told the Connecticut Post of June 21st, "I'm just so happy the judge allowed Lewis to live. Cats are so important to us all." (See "'Lewis Will Live!': Attack Cat Spared in Court.")
Although Bachtig was not in court on June 20th when the decision was handed down, another of Lewis' alleged victims, seventy-six-year-old Janet Kettman, was still calling for blood. "I don't think the judge went far enough," the former racquetball player and retired nurse told the Connecticut Post.
Courageous Ruth Cisero (See photo on the right of her with supporters outside courthouse), who stood by her cat all the way, told the Connecticut Post afterwards, "The goal was met; Lewis lives. I haven't sleep well in months, and now tonight I can finally get a good night's sleep."
As Cat Defender first reported on April 2nd, the charges against Lewis were from the outset a tissue of lies manufactured by cat-haters, bird-lovers, and crazy old women. (See "Free Lewis Now! Connecticut Tomcat, Victimized by a Bum Rap, Is Placed Under House Arrest.") While some of the facts surrounding the alleged attacks remain in dispute, a picture far different from the one painted by Lewis' detractors emerges once all the circumstances are examined in toto.
According to a May 12th report in the Westport News, Lewis is alleged to have been responsible for seven separate attacks against five different women during the past three years. (See "Infamous Cat to Get Day in Court.") The assaults began in October of 2002 when Lewis allegedly bit Barbara Dunn on the left hand. Avon peddler Donna Greenstein, who recently settled out of court a $5,000 civil suit against Cisero, was allegedly attacked on January 23, 2004.
Kettman and another woman, Rachel Aiello, were both allegedly attacked on two separate occasions by Lewis. During the summer of 2003, Kettman instigated an attack when she threw water on Lewis because he was fighting with her cat. On December 6th of last year Kettman had another run-in with Lewis which resulted in her being bitten on the leg. Aiello, for her part, claims that although Lewis bit her on the leg while she was shoveling snow during the winter of 2003, she insanely tried to pet him a few months later in the spring of 2003 and was bitten again.
According to Cisero, her neighbors have not only thrown water, eggs, and other debris at her cat but they even once illegally trapped him with the intent of giving him to a shelter to be exterminated. (See Cat Defender post of June 15,2006 entitled "Serial Cat Killer on Long Island Traps Neighbors' Cats and Then Gives Them to Shelter to Exterminate.") Fortunately for Lewis, the Connecticut Humane Society was closed that day and his captors were reluctantly forced to release him.
Kettman is, quite obviously, a crazy old woman. As any fool knows, intervening in a fight between two cats can be dangerous; more importantly, by throwing water at Lewis it was she who attacked him and not vice versa. As far as Aiello is concerned, it is not known what provoked the initial attack, but she, like Kettman, was stupid to have attempted to pet him after she had been previously bitten. Both women need to be placed under psychological observation.
Greenstein, who was in it all along for the money, is happy now that she has been paid. "I didn't want to see him die over this; as long as he is kept inside I will be happy," she told the Connecticut Post in the article cited above. Because of her steadfast insistence that Lewis either be killed or mutilated, Bachtig can be dismissed as a ailurophobe, regardless of the particular facts surrounding the alleged attack. Not enough information is known about the incident involving Dunn to make an evaluation.
The long ordeal that both Lewis and Cisero have been forced to undergo in Fairfield is part and parcel of a worldwide campaign directed against felines and their owners by bird-lovers, wildlife proponents, and ailurophobes. These groups and individuals want all feral cats to be rounded up and exterminated. They have even succeeded in some instances of criminalizing the feeding of homeless cats.
These despicable cat-haters also want all domestic cats to be sterilized, licensed, and confined indoors. Some localities across the country have even gone so far as to place limits on the number of cats that a person can own and to hold them liable whenever their cats either trespass or relieve themselves on another person's property.
Throughout their existence cats have always been under attack and that is still true to this very day. In order to protect them, it is paramount that cat-lovers vigorously rebut the lies and anti-feline propaganda disseminated by ailurophobes. Secondly, they should work to ban the extermination of cats (and dogs) at shelters and to criminalize all attacks perpetrated against companion animals. Mutilations should be outlawed as well as unnecessary sterilizations and vaccinations. Finally, the American Bird Conservancy's (ABC) Cats Indoors campaign should be strenuously opposed; all cats, including Lewis, are entitled to their freedom.
Cat-lovers have a new hero in Ruth Cisero and she is to be highly commended for sticking by her cat. She could have allowed Lewis' enemies to have either killed or mutilated him but she chose not to take the easy way out. The trial has cost her a lot of time and aggravation and her legal fees must be enormous. Plus, she still has her community service work to complete which she has elected to fulfill at a zoo.
As for melancholic Lewis (See photo above), the adjustment from being a cat about town to an exclusively indoor feline has been a difficult one but he is coping. Cisero recently told WCBS Radio out of Manhattan that he spends his days watching the wildlife out a window (See photo above) of her house.
Hopefully, this arrangement will work out for all concerned, especially Lewis. He has many enemies, however, and should he somehow escape the confines of Cisero's house it will most likely mean the end of him as well as a stint in the nick for Cisero. Both she and Lewis would be far better off if they immediately left Connecticut but that does not appear to be an alternative that she is willing to contemplate.
Photos: Brian A. Pounds of the Connecticut Post (Ruth Cisero and Lewis), Phil Noel of the Connecticut Post (Cisero outside court), Wikipedia (Lewis' portrait), and News 12, Norwalk, Connecticut (Lewis looking out the window).