Scott Sexton, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C. –
In the end, the court proceedings against Angelanetta Gladdenshe was charged with felony cruelty to animalswound up mimicking the death of the dog she was accused of starving to death.
They were slow and painful, gruesome and gut-wrenching. And ultimately, the case came to an unfair and unjust end.
Gladden, 33, walked out of the Forsyth Hall of Justice Tuesday with a mere misdemeanor conviction, with no jail time and no fine imposeda slap on the wrist administered by a soft-hearted judge.
“I think you know how the state feels, and obviously the court disagreed,” prosecutor Matt Breeding told Judge Todd Burke, who dismissed the felony. “But this goes beyond mere neglect.
“Neglect means you leave a dog outside in a rainstorm while you take a nap or forgetting to change the cat’s litter box … This was systematic starvation and dehydration of a defenseless animal. It was cruel and malicious and deserves an active sentence.”
Ruling things out
The case against Gladden began Jan. 10, 2011, when she called Forsyth County Animal Control to report that her dog, Diamond, a black pit bull, had died.
Michael Gainey, the sheriff’s deputy who responded, found an extremely emaciated animal lying dead inside a dog house with no roof. He took photographs, wrote up a report that included Gladden’s statement that neighborhood kids might have been feeding candy and chips to Diamond and gathered up the corpse for a forensic exam.
That process took about 10 days, a fact seized upon by defense attorney Stephanie Goldsborough, who asked Gainey why he didn’t charge Gladden immediately. Goldsborough also said her client knew something was wrong with the dog and gave her de-worming medication but lacked the expertise to know exactly what was wrong.
Gladden was initially cited for misdemeanor cruelty to animals; a grand jury indicted her on the more serious felony in September after Breeding learned about the case.
“I’m not an irrational person,” Gainey testified. “If it was this serious, I didn’t want to charge her when I didn’t fully understand (the cause of death.)”
In other words, he wanted to have a veterinarian conduct a necropsy to make sure the dog didn’t die from worms, parasites or another disease.
What the vet found – and what was repeated in court – was that Diamond was so severely malnourished and dehydrated that she began to digest the lining of her stomach and bone marrow tissue.
That doesn’t happen overnight; the process could take several days, if not weeks.
“I ruled out just about everything I could think of … In my opinion, the animal died of starvation,” testified Dr. Darrell Rector of the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
While gruesome, the testimony offered was also straightforward. The case turned, in the judge’s view, on whether Diamond’s death was malicious.
Goldsborough made a motion asking Burke to toss out the felony. “There may be an argument that there was some neglect but not maliciousness,” she said.
Breeding countered by reading a legal definition of the felony cruelty to animals charge, which includes the phrase “condition of mind that can prompt a person to inflict or allow seriously bodily harm without excuse or just cause” to describe malice.
“We don’t have a device in the defendant’s head that can determine the level of hatred, spite or ill will,” he said. “Surely at some point she looked out the window and saw the dog starving. The state contends she did nothing, and that’s malice.”
Burke disagreed. He chucked the felony, said he credited Gladden for calling animal control herself, then started leaning on Gladden to make up her mind about whether to plead guilty to the misdemeanor. He even told her he was not going to send her to jail.
“You’ve had I don’t know how many months to think about this,” he said. “Either you take this plea, or we can proceed to trial (on the misdemeanor).”
After dithering and consulting with supporters in the courtroom, Gladden took the deal. Then Burke sweetened it even more than promised: a suspended sentence with no jail time (Breeding asked for the maximum 45 days for the misdemeanor), three years’ unsupervised probation and waived fines and court costs. Gladden’s lawyer said she didn’t have anything to say to this columnist.
Oh, Burke did impose one small thing that could be construed as punishment: Gladden isn’t allowed to own another pet until and unless she does 24 hours of volunteer work at the Humane Society.
Too little, too late for a dog named Diamond who died a painful, lonely death in a dilapidated dog house.