Travesty of Justice #1

Travesty, grotesque...  There must be better words for what happened today but they escape me.  Yes, I'm still on the HSPCA v. Joe case because it exemplifies so much of what is wrong with our legal system, our society.

Let's start with the change of judges.  Instead of J.P. Gorczynski, Joe had to appear before J.P. David Patronella who “serves as a member of several boards, including the… Citizens for Animal Protection”.  Although Patronella also has a law degree, it just doesn’t smell the least bit right that someone on the board or or even with close involvement to Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP), or a similar organization, presided over even an agreement hearing of this nature!  He most certainly should have recused himself.  And CAP is, in my opinion, one of those over the top animal rights organizations that would see all animals as pets in perfect situations (or else) and all other animals as wildlife, not to be touched by any of us for food.

Since there was an agreement in this case, no one had to testify about the animals.  And yet, Houston SPCA (HSPCA) admits many have died since they were taken by HSPCA.  Funny, they’ve still got their original posting up.  No horn tooting over their “win” today.   Maybe that’s because so many of these animals have already died in their "care" over the past 5 days!  Makes me wonder what else happened in these last few days to these animals.  What do we know so far?

We know the HSPCA claimed to have seized 1,045 animals.  Now they say it was 1,009.  The assistant county attorney says 100-200 have died since the seizure.  Apparently, HSPCA can't count and, apparently, the county isn't too concerned about discrepancies from its own witnesses!  100-200?  Gotta wonder if it isn't much higher than that.

 Now let's look at the "teams" opposed in this case.  On one side, we have Harris County, Texas and HSPCA and on the other we have Joe.

Harris County is represented by Vincent Reed Ryan, Jr., a UH grad, licensed since 1974 and with the power and funding of Harris County behind him.  Harris County also gets Linda S. Giffin, an STCL (private law school) grad, licensed since 1990.  (Of course, the county had their choice from some 61-100 attorneys on staff and you can bet they had the assistance of more attorneys and staffers in this matter over the last 5 days.)

Joe is represented by Brian Edward Storts, a  TSU grad, licensed since 1992 who is also a former municipal prosecutor, funded by a client already in financial difficulties.  Purely guessing that Mr. Storts probably represented Joe in his divorce.  Well, at least as a former prosecutor, he was able to fully inform Joe of what he was up against although I seriously doubt he encouraged him to fight back for even one minute.

So NOT a fair fight!  And this is, of course, the average line up between an animal owner and, well, anyone else they may have to fight.  The animal owner is likely to see the sword of justice (swinging in their general direction) but rarely sees the scales being balanced.

Here's what's reported that Joe agreed to.  Joe forfeited the still living animals, all but 2; has forfeited his home of 8 years (net equity of about $150,000) to the county "to satisfy $213,458 in medical and boarding costs for the animals that were seized" (he gets 30 whole days to vacate); he waived his right to appeal.

Joe did get something out of this settlement.  2 of the seized dogs, his children's pets, will be returned to his ex-wife.  Well, at least I can understand why he made the agreement.  I knew from the moment I saw this case that the family pets were the leverage the county would use to coerce Joe into a settlement.  Wonder what happened to dog #3.  Did it die these past few days?  Was Joe partially in a hurry to settle just to save the other 2 dogs from the same fate?  We'll probably never know.

Because what the County didn't give was an assurance that Joe wouldn't be criminally prosecuted.  Joe has been effectively gagged.  He dare not speak out, nor even tell his side in this allegedly "civil" case for fear of criminal prosecution.  Another resident just trying to make a living, to survive, to pay child support in a really lousy economy has been cowed and silenced.

Someone please tell me how the county is claiming the expenses for medical and boarding of the seized animals while HSPCA is simultaneously drumming up donations for the same?  Double dipping would be a kind term to use!  And who's actually going to get the proceeds from the forfeited property?  And isn't it great that Joe's children probably won't get child support for the foreseeable future?

Seriously, think about it.  Instead of making any attempt to work with Joe (who didn't even make them get a warrant, fully cooperated when they showed up in force on his doorstep), the County hammered him.  Now, instead of struggling, he's probably destitute and still facing the possibility of criminal charges.  The animals, mostly livestock, are dropping dead in the care of HSPCA and the County gets Joe's assets instead of his children.

Not to mention the children probably lost their pet pony in all this and that's one animal (of many) who looked to be in decent condition and of whom we've heard absolutely nothing since the seizure.  I'd be willing to bet that we start seeing the pony and the goat showing up at HSPCA fund raisers.  I doubt HSPCA will have one single qualm about putting those animals to work for it's benefit!

If I were Joe, I'd be seriously considering trying to get this agreement overturned based on the Judge's conflict of interest.  But then, I have a law degree and poor Joe doesn't and English probably isn't his first language.  There really should be a lawyer out there willing to give Joe a hand for all the animal owners who will be abused by Harris County in the future because they just keep getting away with this type of bullying behavior.

"First they came for..."

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