Two Spokane County deputies will not be facing animal cruelty charges after all.
In a ruling released Tuesday, District Court Judge Sara Derr reversed her earlier decision that allowed a citizen to bring charges against two deputies in connection with an incident last April in which the deputies repeatedly used Tasers against a 600-pound bull calf.
Adam Karp, an animal law attorney from Bellingham, said he doesn’t agree with Derr’s 18-page ruling and is considering appealing the decision to a higher court.
“As long as the prosecutor decides he is overwhelmed, asleep at the wheel or even corrupt, there is nothing the public can do,” Karp said. “That’s basically it.”
Karp represented Chris Anderlik, 80, of Liberty Lake, who filed the citizen petition seeking criminal charges after Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker’s office refused to charge Deputies Damon Simmons and Ballard Bates.
In January, Derr ruled in favor of Karp and Anderlik, saying that probable cause existed to formally charge Simmons and Bates with second-degree animal cruelty in connection with using Tasers against the black Angus calf. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
However, Derr reconsidered that ruling at the request of Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Brian O’Brien.
Derr “finds that the court rule we used is not unconstitutional on its face, but it’s unconstitutional as applied,” Karp said. “Therefore, she is not allowing us to file the charges.”
O’Brien, himself a former rodeo bareback rider, said the deputies simply were trying to save the bull. It was grazing near the Centennial Trail, and the deputies were concerned it could run onto nearby Interstate 90.
“I think the citizens of Spokane County won, quite frankly,” O’Brien said. “What they were trying to do was keep the bull off the freeway. By doing that, they ended up killing the bull.”
Bates’ Taser was discharged 42 times at 5-second intervals. And Simmons’ weapon was discharged for a total of 253 continuous seconds; the gun pulses 50,000 volts through the intended target.
Anderlik, a self-described incurable animal lover, said she holds no animosity toward the deputies. But the amount of Taser jolts rendered the calf “fried.”
“They fulfill a very good purpose,” she said of the deputies. “But there should have been a lot more common sense used. That calf was … subjected to the worst torture possible.
“What I wanted out of this is that people who are given these Tasers should be given definite instructions,” she said.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said he has not been able to speak with either deputy. But he said both acted appropriately.
“When a 600-pound bull decides it wants to go somewhere, it’s probably going to go there,” Knezovich said. “They actually thought they were trying to save the animal’s life.”
He recalled a similar recent incident in which deputies shot a full-grown cow 21 times with handguns and shotguns before the animal died.
“Before the end of the week, I will sit down and talk to (Simmons and Bates) about the incident and get their input to see how we can improve things and avoid these types of situations in the future,” he said.
One possible solution will be to purchase better equipment for animal control handlers or further training with Tasers, Knezovich said.
“It was good to see the judge take a look at the case again,” he said.
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