Virginia's Disreputable Legal and Political Establishment Is All Set to Acquit Jonathan N. Snoddy at His Retrial for Brutally Beating to Death an Injured Cat
|Kenneth Lee Alger III|
"Integrity is at the top of the list. You have to have integrity, honesty and the trust of the people you work with in the community. If you don't have that you're not going anywhere."
-- Donald Harper, recently retired chief of police in Harrisonburg
Harrisonburg police officer Jonathan N. Snoddy's retrial for savagely bludgeoning to death an injured cat on Settlers Lane last November 11th has been postponed from April 9th until June 7th. It then will be heard by a jury in Rockingham County Circuit Court with Judge James V. Lane presiding.
The delay was prompted when the Virginia State Bar recommended that prosecutors in Rockingham County recuse themselves due to a conflict of interest. Specifically, the Bar took exception to their prior dealings with Snoddy's fellow officers who testified on his behalf at his first trial.
This marks the second time that the Bar has intervened in this case. Prior to the first trial, Rockingham County prosecutor Marsha Garst received its approval to proceed against Snoddy because, in its opinion, her office did not have enough of a relationship with him so as to prejudice the case. (See the Daily News-Record of Harrisonburg, March 27, 2012, "Convicted Officer Back on the Beat.")
The Bar's two rulings are contradictory in that it surely knew well before the first trial ever got under way that the Harrisonburg Police Department (HPD) would rally around Snoddy by not only testifying on his behalf but also by packing Rockingham County District Court in an effort to intimidate those charged with dispensing justice. The conflict of interest which existed in the first trial manifested itself writ large when Garst's underling, Cristabel Opp, prosecuted Snoddy with all the vigor of a doting maternal aunt lovingly stroking the hair of her favorite nephew. (See Cat Defender post of March 22, 2012 entitled "In Another Outrageous Miscarriage of Justice, Rogue Cop Jonathan N. Snoddy Is Let Off with a $50 Fine for Savagely Bludgeoning to Death an Injured Cat.")
The Bar's inexcusable failure to demand that Garst's office stand down was made all the more glaring after judges Richard Claybrok and William Heatwole recused themselves due to their prior dealings with Snoddy. That opened the door for old political hack Steven Helvin to come out of retirement and try the case.
Although to his credit he did find Snoddy guilty of one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty in a bench trial that concluded on March 8th, Helvin left no doubt about his prejudices. "It's difficult for a judge to second-guess law enforcement," he declared. "(But) I think the way he killed the cat was in violation. The way he killed the cat was unnecessary." (See Daily News-Record, March 9, 2012, "City Cop Loses a $50 Case.")
As a result, Helvin let off Snoddy with an insultingly lenient $50 fine. "He doesn't deserve to go to jail," he proclaimed with a heavy heart.
As it may be recalled, resident Wayne Meadows discovered the injured cat after it had been run down, deliberately no doubt, by a hit-and-run motorist. When all local humane groups and veterinarians turned down his entreaties for help, he naïvely turned to the HPD.
Twenty-five-year-old Snoddy, who lives in nearby Bridgewater, arrived on the scene but instead of providing the cat with nearby emergency veterinary care, he took the law into his own hands and killed it with his night stick and by, perhaps, slamming its head against the rockwork outside Meadows's residence. Although by that time he had gone back inside, Meadows nevertheless did overhear up to twenty loud thumps coming from his front porch.
Press reports have not disclosed what Snoddy did with the cat's corpse and, as a consequence, it is doubtful that a necropsy was performed on it. Such a procedure likely would have been able to delineate the damage done by the motorist from that which Snoddy later inflicted.
Since the cat was alive when Snoddy got his murderous hands on it, the presumption is that it possibly could have been saved if prompt veterinary care had been procured for it. Under no circumstances whatsoever should this injured cat have been savagely bludgeoned to death by Snoddy who, to this very day, remains utterly unremorseful, defiant, and contemptuous of all morality, legal norms, and public opinion.
None of that mattered to Helvin, however, who has a long history of short changing cats and other animals. (See Cat Defender post of June 22, 2006 entitled "Used Car Dealer in Virginia Murders Sweet Three-Year-Old Cat Named Carmen with a Rifle Shot to the Neck.")
Despite the sweetheart deal that he received from old reliable Helvin, Snoddy and his shysters were back in court the very next day, March 9th, demanding a new trial, this one by a jury, in Rockingham County Circuit Court. That request not only was granted but his retrial was expedited to begin on April 9th.
Under what passes for justice in Virginia, Snoddy's legal shenanigans probably are legal. They certainly are not fair, however, in that it is doubtful that most defendants in Rockingham County are accorded both speedy bench and jury trials in two separate courts.
If the state allowed all defendants to shop around to their hearts' content for prosecutors, judges, courts, and different types of proceedings it is doubtful that any of them ever would be convicted of anything. Besides, the cost to the taxpayers would be astronomical. If against all odds Snoddy should lose again in court on June 7th it will be interesting to see if Virginia's legal and political establishment will grant him a third trial.
Best of all as far as Snoddy is concerned, the taxpayers are footing the bill not only for his judicial wranglings but also for his highly-paid defense team as well. The legal and political establishment in Virginia quite obviously does not spare any expense when it comes to protecting one of its fellow criminals.
By contrast, Good Samaritan Meadows was left so traumatized by Snoddy's unprovoked murder of the injured cat that he was forced to miss an unspecified amount of work. He then no doubt was deposed by both Opp and Snoddy's attorneys before trial in addition to being called to testify in court.
|Donald Harper Basking in a Career Devoted to "Integrity"|
Now, he will be forced to go through the same rigmarole all over again. Unlike Snoddy, however, no one is paying him for his time and expenses.
The willful mistreatment and abuse of witnesses and plaintiffs is one of the major inequities within the American judicial system. Quite often, these seemingly never ending judicial exercises turn their lives upside down and deplete their resources without providing them with an ounce of either satisfaction or justice.
Prosecutors, judges, policemen, and other court employees fart around on the public's dime until the cows come home and therefore could care less what witnesses and victims are forced to endure. In such a perverted milieu, justice never could be much more than an afterthought.
In place of the acquiescent Opp, Lane has appointed Kenneth Lee Alger III to prosecute Snoddy. Although the two-month delay was ostensibly granted in order to allow Alger to familiarize himself with the case, he more than likely will spend that time concocting a public relations ruse of some sort that will allow him to purposefully lose the case without damaging his reputation too severely.
There certainly is not anything in his lackluster background that would give fans of justice any reason for optimism. Elected in November of last year, he currently serves as district attorney in neighboring Page County.
Not only is he a sixth generation resident of that county but a cattle rancher as well. He therefore is as bedrock establishment as they come and an animal exploiter and killer on top of that.
He additionally is a greedy bugger in that he works part-time as a business law professor at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg. In a stinging indictment of both the halls of ivy and those who slave away at these bloodsucking, capitalist institutions, The New York Times reported on November 20, 2007 that a full seventy per cent of all professors are adjuncts. (See "Adjuncts Outnumber Tenured Professors on United States' Campuses" and Washington Post, July 21, 2002, "Professors of Desperation.")
The only individuals who take these second-class sinecures are either small-minded egomaniacs who like to hear themselves roar or individuals who are so greedy that they will do almost anything for a few extra bucks. Even delivering the mail would be a step up in the world as compared to them because it at least is honest work and all employees are, more or less, treated equally.
Alger also is a 2003 law graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens which, incidentally, is where Nico Dauphiné honed her skills at killing cats before moving on to Washington and plying her craft there. It is doubtful that Alger crossed paths with her in Athens but it nonetheless is something to be borne in mind. (See Cat Defender posts of July 12, 2011, November 18, 2011, and January 6, 2012 entitled, respectively, "The Arrest of Nico Dauphiné for Attempting to Poison a Colony of Homeless Cats Unmasks the National Zoo as a Hideout for Ailurophobes and Criminals," "Nico Dauphiné, Ph.D., Is Convicted of Attempting to Poison a Colony of Homeless Cats but Questions Remain Concerning the Smithsonians's Role" and "Nico Dauphiné Is Let Off with an Insultingly Lenient $100 Fine in a Show Trial That Was Fixed from the Very Beginning.")
The first real test of Alger's sincerity will come during voir dire. Since Snoddy needs only one member of the jury to vote in his favor for him to escape punishment, Alger must be especially careful during this phase of the trial if he is serious about winning.
That, by the way, is how James Munn Stevenson was able to get away with his feline killing spree. (See Cat Defender posts of November 22, 2006 and November 20, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Evil Galveston Bird Lover Is Finally Arrested After Having Gunned Down Hundreds of Cats" and "Bird Lovers All Over the World Rejoice as Serial Killer James M. Stevenson Is Rewarded by Galveston Court for Gunning Down Hundreds of Cats.")
The long and short of the matter is that absolutely no one expects Alger to prevail in court even if he mounts a vigorous prosecution. That is because it not only is nearly impossible to exclude all cat-haters from a jury but Americans are madly in love with cops and almost never convict them of anything.
Changing prosecutors therefore is woefully inadequate if the objective is to serve the ends of justice. For even a semblance of justice to be meted out in this case a change of venue also is needed. Specifically, this case from the outset should have been moved out of southern Virginia and tried by a competent prosecutor, if one can be found, and before an impartial judge. Above all, any jury impaneled to hear this case should consist of something other than Snoddy's redneck buddies and neighbors.
As for him, he was reinstated to active duty soon after his conviction and has been on patrol since the last week of March. From the time of the murder of the cat until his recent reinstatement, he had been assigned to desk duty where he continued to draw his full salary.
"Officer Snoddy has returned to his normal patrol assignment with the Harrisonburg Police Department," Mary-Hope Vass of the department told the Daily News-Record in the article cited supra. "No further information will be released from HPD due to the confidentiality of the internal affairs investigation."
The HPD's totally bogus internal investigation of Snoddy's criminal behavior was the beginning of what was destined to become a lengthy series of elaborate dodges orchestrated by it and the political and legal establishment in Harrisonburg. "An internal investigation was conducted in this matter and appropriate action has been taken internally," the department declared to WHSV-TV of Harrisonburg on November 30th. (See "Man Who Reported Officer Beating Dying Cat Speaks on Outcry.") "In addition, the department continues to review current procedures in handling animal complaints to determine if any changes or modifications need to be be made."
As is the case with just about all internal police investigations, the HPD swept Snoddy's crime underneath the rug and reinstated him despite his conviction. He has not been either punished or disciplined in any shape, form, or fashion.
As far as it is known, the HPD has not issued any new guidelines on how its officers are supposed to treat injured cats. In that context it is interesting to note in passing that the department's statement groups this incident under the rubric of an animal complaint. C'est-à-dire, it regards all cats and other animals as little more than pests to be abused and eradicated.
First of all, it is the duty of the HPD and all other law enforcement agencies to ensure that the streets are safe for cats, all other animals, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Included in that mandate is the responsibility to track down and arrest not only all hit-and-run motorists who injure and kill cats but also those who violate the rules of the road.
Second of all, if the citizens of Harrisonburg had anything remotely resembling a conscience they would insist that City Council and Mayor Richard Baugh set aside funding for the emergency veterinary care of sick and injured animals. As everyone knows only too well, most veterinarians will not say so much as hello unless they are paid $500 up front. (See Cat Defender post of July 16, 2010 entitled "Tossed Out the Window of a Car Like an Empty Beer Can, Injured Chattanooga Kitten Is Left to Die after at Least Two Veterinarians Refused to Treat It.")
If the City Council had been willing to have done that along with revoking the HPD's authority to kill animals, the cat that Snoddy murdered might very well still be alive today. Also, in spite of the outrageous fees that veterinarians charge, the cat could have been treated for a fraction of what Harrisonburg is spending protecting Snoddy. Unfortunately, that is precisely the type of wrongheaded public policy that prevails when citizens allow crooks, liars, thieves, and cat killers to rule the political roost.
Based upon their total abdication of duty, Baugh and the members of City Council have shown themselves to be little more than barkers and flunkies for the HPD. "We just want to acknowledge that it is a story, and say in a public forum that it is something that the city is addressing," councilman Kai Degner gassed to WHSV-TV on November 23rd. (See "Harrisonburg City Council Still Discussing Cop Killing Cat Case.") "We have a lot of confidence in the city staff's ability to deal with it appropriately."
Suffice it to say, city council has done absolutely nothing to either protect cats or to reign in the HPD and make it accountable to the public. Its members accordingly are every bit as mendacious, derelict, and deceitful as Garst, Opp, Helvin, and the remainder of the crowd that runs the show in Harrisonburg.
On March 31st, Chief of Police Donald Harper retired. He had held that position since 1992 and spent the last forty-eight years of his life as a cop.
Fittingly enough, his last major act as chief of police was to reinstate Snoddy to patrol duty. After that, he hightailed it out of office.
Before he rode into the sunset, however, he paused for a few moments in order to chew the fat with the young sycophants at JMU. "Integrity is at the top of the list," he opined to The Breeze on April 2nd when asked to delineate the qualities needed in a good police chief. (See "Harrisonburg Police Chief Retires.") "You have to have integrity, honesty and the trust of the people you work with in the community. If you don't have that you're not going anywhere."
It is just too bad that the bitter irony contained in Harper's musings eludes most individuals because otherwise they surely would be splitting their sides with laughter. If he had been born a few years earlier, it is conceivable that he might have given the great comedians of yesteryear, such as Edgar Bergen and Laurel and Hardy, a run for their money.
Captain Dan Clayton will serve as interim chief until June 4th when stern-faced Stephen Monticelli of the police force in Columbia, Missouri, will take the helm. Before joining that unit, Monticelli was a member of the University of Missouri's Police Department. (See Columbia Daily Tribune, April 2, 2012, "Deputy Taking Police Job in Virginia.")
It used to be that even the major universities employed only a handful of security officers but now even rinky-dink schools have large police forces. That is in spite of the fact that college campuses of today are boring and sedate when compared with those of the wonderful, hell-raising 1960's.
With the universities now firmly entrenched in the right-wing establishment that pretty much signals the end of anything remotely resembling academic integrity. Lining their pockets, indoctrinating students, controlling the masses, and defaming and killing cats is just about all that any longer interests the so-called intelligentsia. (See Cat Defender post of July 18, 2011 entitled "Evil Professors Have Transformed College Campuses into Hotbeds of Hatred Where Cats Routinely Are Vilified, Horribly Abused, and Systematically Killed.")
Even more revolting than Snoddy's anticipated acquittal on June 7th is the fact that his defenseless victim has been reduced to little more than a footnote in this long-running carefully choreographed charade that masquerades as justice. For instance, almost nothing is known about the cat, not even its sex, color, and name. Also, since it was found in a residential area, it must have had a guardian who is either too uncaring or craven to even come forward and demand that it be given justice.
Since no one else is willing to do so, perhaps Meadows can be prevailed upon to be more forthcoming about this cat. In particular, if its remains have not been disposed of already, maybe he will take it upon himself to see that it receives a proper burial and a tombstone.
The entire legal and political system in Virginia has sold out just to protect a piece of garbage like Snoddy who belongs in jail instead of carrying a gun and wearing a badge. Since it treats cats as if their lives lacked any intrinsic value, it is hard to imagine that the impecunious, social outcasts, and minorities could possibly fare much better.
If the lazy rotters at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in Washington cared anything about either the rule of law or equality under law they immediately would launch an investigation into Rockingham County's thoroughly corrupt legal and political establishment. For Snoddy not only to have gotten away scot-free with his heinous crime but to have been allowed to retain his job as well required the complicity of no less than the HPD, the mayor and city council of Harrisonburg, the Virginia State Bar, prosecutors Garst and Opp, and Helvin. Once round two is in the books, Alger, Lane, and twelve citizens of Rockingham County also will have become complicit in his crime.
The rulers in Harrisonburg are betting that cat-lovers will lose interest in this case and that Snoddy's crime will be all but forgotten by the time that his case comes to court on June 7th. Hopefully, they will be rudely disappointed about that.
Photos: Facebook (Alger), WVIR-TV of Charlottesville (Harper), and Columbia Daily Tribune (Monticelli).