The Strange Case of Gil McGillicuddy

Why dogs? What is the deal with law enforcement and family pets? Ruby Ridge started when Ninja Clad Warrior Wannabes shot the family dog and initiated a firefight with Randy Weaver’s son. In Santa Clarita, James Beck was worried the BATF would injure his dog. At Waco, Mama Dog and her pups were the first to go.

While this North Carolina case does not rise to the level of pathos of these other cases, the mindset of modern law enforcement is uniformly and oddly resonant everywhere. The names have been changed to protect the guilty because God knows the dog has suffered enough.

After almost exactly one hundred days Gil McGillicuddy’s (not his real name) dog was returned to him.

The dog, Cuddles, (not her real name) was imprisoned for three months in the Cornucopia County Animal Shelter (not a real North Carolina County) at the direction of one Cornucopia County Deputy Sheriff Brassbadge (not his real name) as part of an aggressive animal abuse investigation.

McGillicuddy’s trip through Alice’s Looking Glass began at twilight on Saturday evening, April 21, 2001, when he peered through the window of his mobile home and was surprised to see three uniformed Cornucopia County Sheriff Deputies standing in his front yard, each of whom had arrived in a separate vehicle.

Gil, a house painter of modest means lived by himself with his dog in a rural area out toward the county line. He generally did not bother anyone and usually no one bothered him. So naturally he was congenial and cooperative when the Deputies arrived. Initially he figured they had mistaken his mobile home for the mobile home across the drainage ditch and down the road, an address that generated numerous nuisance 911 calls.

In fact, they were there to question him in response to an anonymous tip that a dog was yelping in pain as a result of a beating at his address.

Gil, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, allowed that he and dog had cavorted around in the front yard for a few minutes earlier in the evening prior to going inside the house. He also brought out the dog to demonstrate the cheerful demeanor and good health she enjoyed in his custody.

For whatever reason this was considered by Deputy Brassbadge to be tantamount to a confession of animal abuse and Gil was summarily handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police cruiser.

Cuddles, a beagle/border collie mix whose only crime in the presence of strangers was to attempt to stamp a clear set of muddy paw prints on every crisply starched shirt possible was thrown into a second police cruiser and the two partners in crime were whisked downtown for processing.

Convinced this was a terrible mistake that would be quickly corrected, McGillicuddy patiently awaited his turn to speak to the processing Magistrate.

The Magistrate was moved to tears when he read the charge against McGillicuddy, possibly because of the official grammar.

Deputy Brassbadge used a North Carolina Uniform Citation ticket to charge McGillicuddy with his violation. The North Carolina Uniform Citation lists over a dozen possible traffic offenses and provides a blank category for an arresting officer to fill in with some other offense should circumstances warrant.

So the text of the actual charge presented to the court read as follows: “The undersigned officer has probable cause to believe that on or about Saturday 2030 PM the 21th day of April 2001 in the named county the defendant did unlawfully and willfully operate a (motor) vehicle on a 14. did beat him dog by kicking him in the dog and around the head with his hand, and did pick up dog throw him out the front door this Abuse is in violation of GS”

McGillicuddy spent the rest of Saturday night in the Cornucopia County Jail and posted bail early Sunday morning.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while and Gil was now convinced the better part of wisdom would be to locate evidence with which to defend himself in court.

Material favorable to his case did not require much effort or trouble to locate.

The Cornucopia Animal Shelter manager was a veteran of a number of horrible animal abuse cases and she was amazed to receive custody of Cuddles as part of an abuse investigation.

She wrote the following letter for McGillicuddy’s benefit in crisp clear longhand: “To Whom It May Concern: Cuddle’s condition when she arrived at the Cornucopia County Animal Shelter was excellent. She is well groomed, happy and healthy. She does not appear to have been abused or neglected. She is very energetic and a wonderful dog. Sincerely, (name) (phone)”

In addition, using the resources of the modern internet, McGillicuddy quickly found the North Carolina General Statutes relating to animal abuse—an entire Chapter (19 A) with 5 Articles and some several hundred paragraphs which included Article 4—Animal Cruelty Investigators.

Article 4 listed the requirements for animal abuse investigations very clearly and specifically. The Cornucopia County Sheriff did not meet a single listed condition in McGillicuddy’s case.

Among other requirements, an Animal Cruelty Investigator is a completely separate listed position independent of any law enforcement organization with specific rigorous training requirements. Only an Animal Cruelty Investigator can initiate an abuse investigation and only upon a sworn complaint filed with the court BEFORE taking custody of an abused animal. Forcible entry investigations must be conducted only during daylight hours—and on and on and on.

Confident his case would be quickly resolved, Gil now patiently awaited his court date in the first week of June. He even took pictures of his property from the road to demonstrate the foliage was so thick no witness could possibly see any abuse even if they were trespassing.

He visited the incarcerated Cuddles as often as his schedule would allow him to make the trip across the county to the shelter; usually at least twice a week.

The appointed day arrived. Gil dressed in the suit he wore to weddings and funerals and assembled his defense papers into a neat new manila folder and made his way downtown to the courthouse.

His turn in the crowded court docket finally came. The Judge harrumphed when he saw the case file and looked over his glasses at the young Assistant District Attorney and in turn looked at Officer Brassbadge and finally at Gil who appeared before the Court in his own defense. The three parties were instructed to approach and Gil listened in amazement as the DA and the Deputy Sheriff explained this case could only be prosecuted with the complaining witnesses present. The Judge looked at Gil and ordered the case continued. The new court date would be the first week of July.

Amazed he was not allowed to present his evidence or get the case dismissed, Gil left with a heavy heart and the loss of one day’s pay from his job.

The July court appearance involved a different Judge and a different Assistant District Attorney. This Judge appeared sympathetic when Gil somewhat passionately argued that this was his second appearance before the court on a frivolous case and he would like a resolution to the situation.

The Judge agreed that if the witnesses did not appear at the third hearing the case would be automatically dismissed. Case continued. The next court date would be the first week of August. Gil was out another day’s pay.

On the appointed day in August the somewhat weary McGillicuddy appeared before yet another Judge with yet another Assistant District Attorney prosecuting his case. Deputy Sheriff Brassbadge appeared wearing civilian clothes. He had just been promoted to Plain Clothes duty in the Sheriff’s Department. The atmosphere of the court was almost jovial. There were no prosecution witnesses anywhere to be seen.

The Judge, a silver haired veteran of the Cornucopia County Courthouse struck a stern posture behind the bench.

“An awful lot of red ink in this file folder Madame District Attorney.”

“Yes, your honor.”

“Are your witnesses present?”

“No, your honor.”

“Officer Brassbadge, were the subpoenas properly served?”

“As well as possible within the limits of time and available personnel your honor.”

“You realize I have no choice but to dismiss this case.”

“Yes, your honor.”

Gil was stunned. There would no opportunity to present his evidence and clear his name. Worse, he was now out three days pay and liable for the boarding fees for Cuddles with no clear resolution to his long ordeal.

“Your honor, I wish to enter my evidence into the record.”

“Sir, your case is dismissed and the matter is settled.”

A cheerful Officer Brassbadge presented McGillicuddy with the papers he would need to take custody of his dog. Gill drove across the county to the Animal Shelter and was allowed to donate $55.00 to the shelter in lieu of the $800.00 boarding fee he was technically indebted to pay.

Cuddles was pleased to receive a thorough bath, her first in a hundred days, and to run in her own backyard free of the confined cage standard to animal shelters everywhere.

Asked to sum up his ordeal Gil had this to say: “I’m sure as hell not opening the door the next time any Deputies show up in my front yard. They are going to have to drag me out kicking and screaming.”

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

TJ Kattermann

TJ Kattermann has lived a miraculous life in Raleigh, NC for the last half century as a revival handyman by day and a frequently unpublished author scribbling in his garret by night. Astounded yesterday's jokes have become today's reality ("come the apocalypse cotton balls and toilet paper will become the black market currency of choice" —circa 1995). He brings now his tales of past battles fought as he awaits an opportunity to serve the grandchildren of customers he first met two generations ago with ever more necessary one-man repairs and improvements from the simple to the complex.

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