Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Open Letter to Virginia State Delegate Rob Bell

August 25, 2014

Dear Delegate Bell,

              We met at the Boots on the Ground event at Liberty Farm on August 24th.   Enclosed is a copy of my first book, Staring the Dragon in the Eye, which you requested.  Recently, I released my 2nd book, The Art of Terror:  Inside the Animal Rights Movement, which parallels the issues raised in my first book.  At the event, you challenged me regarding the details of your unconstitutional bill, HB 999, Posting of Bonds by Animal Owners, which you sponsored in 2008 and asked me what made it a bad bill.  As a former Prosecutor and as someone with a website that contains the following statement, “Rob has also fought to protect Constitutional rights of Virginia citizens,” you should know better! 

Perhaps you need a refresher on the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia;  Article 1, Section 11, “That the General Assembly shall pass no law whereby private property, the right to which is fundamental, shall be damaged or taken except for public use.”  What part about “no law” is not clear?  Under the Virginia Constitution, no law shall be passed which allows private property to be damaged or taken unless it is for public use.  The Constitution goes on to state that if the property is taken for public use, the owner must be compensated and the “condemnor” of the property has the burden of proof to justify that it was taken for public use and public use only.   Your Surety Bond bill turns this concept around 180 degrees and forces the owner to provide compensation to the condemnor who has taken their property.  The condemnor wins by not only seizing valuable property for their own monetary benefit nor for public use, but they also get paid to do it. 

Accusing someone of animal cruelty and then taking their valuable property to resell for profit is a violation of the Virginia Constitution as this is not a “public use.”  Here in the Commonwealth, the definition of what is “cruelty” to an animal is so vague that if the dog is breathing, that’s misdemeanor cruelty.   If the dog isn’t breathing, that’s felony cruelty.   Do you think I’m joking?   My book, enclosed here, details the trial of Jean Payne-Cyhanick, found guilty of multiple charges of animal cruelty for failure to brush her dog’s teeth.   Even the prosecution’s witnesses were testifying for the defense, as the case was so outrageous.   She was ultimately convicted because here in Virginia, almost no one is ever found innocent.   Here is an itemized list of the major deficiencies of your bill and the underlying law it was added to.
  1. HB 999 requires an owner to pay a so-called “bond” in advance before they have been charged with a single crime.  The payment has to be made before charges are filed so the owner has no idea what the pending charges are.  The bond only gives the owner the right to appeal these unknown future charges.  It doesn’t mean they get their property back.  Others call this extortion.  This bond is a violation of Article 1, Section 11, which states that no person shall be deprived of his life, liberty, or property without due process of law.   Nowhere does the Virginia Constitution state that you can charge a citizen a monetary bond in order to secure their due process rights. 
  2. HB 999 has no monetary limit on it.  The prosecution, which represents the animal thieves, who stole the animals, has full rein to charge any amount they so choose.  This means, they charge whatever amount they feel the defendant can’t raise.  In my case, the prosecution initially asked for $90,000, all in cash, no refunds.  This is a violation of the Virginia Constitution, Article I, Section 9 that prohibits excessive fines. 
  3. HB 999 has no serious language that allows for a refund if the defendant is found innocent.  While the bill stated that the bond should not be forfeited if the owner was found not guilty of the “violation,” at the time of the bond payment, the owner has not yet been charged with any crime.  HB 999 assumes that the owner will face a single charge and pay a single bond for that one single charge.   That is false logic. 
  4. Whereas HB 999 because it has no monetary limit on it, and no realistic venue for refunds, gives animal thieves a financial incentive to steal every animal on the property in order to justify as large of a bond as possible.   Is it any coincidence that they are targeting owners of purebred animals for seizure?  Are we supposed to believe that owners of purebred animals are more cruel to their animals than owners of mixed breeds?
  5.  Since HB 999 has passed, numerous purebred animal breeders have been taken out and destroyed and as of yet, NO bond company has ever issued one of these so-called “bonds.”   You can call it a bond all you like, and that doesn't make it one.
  6.  The underlying law that HB 999 was added to intentionally deprive the defense of the right to subpoena witnesses for their side by requiring that the “hearing” be held within 10 days.  Virginia law requires 15 days minimum to serve a subpoena for this type of hearing.   This is a violation of Section 8 of the Virginia constitution that mandates that all citizens have the right “to call for evidence in his favor.”
  7. The underlying law, which triggers the bond that your bill added, contains no language that allows the defense the right to have a veterinarian of their choice examine the animals, therefore, the defense cannot adequately challenge any evidence presented against them and thereby get the bond money back.  Under Virginia law, animal control officers receive only 84 hours of training on “the law” and no training on animals.   They have no expertise to justify any seizure of an animal yet the defense is not allowed to present any expert witnesses.
  8. The underlying law deliberately forces all hearings to take place in General District Court (GDC), when the value of almost all animal seizures conducted exceeds the authority of a GDC, which is a violation of Article 1, Section 14, with prohibits the General Assembly from passing laws that changes the “venue in civil or criminal cases.”  For example, the market value of my stolen champion poodles was approximately $50,000.   GDC’s cannot hear any case involving civil property claims that exceed $25,000.   The fact that this statute forces them to is a violation of Section 14.
  9. The underlying law contained a clause that allows a Judge to issue an order prohibiting ownership of property.  This is a violation of the Virginia Constitution.  Under Virginia law granting authority to courts, GDC Judges have no authority to issue injunctions of any kind with the sole exception of FOIA cases. 
  10. While the underlying law contains ‘nice’ phrases like the “Commonwealth shall be required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” it is still held in a GDC, a court of no-record in Virginia.  Corruption is rampant in these courts because they are courts of no-record.  Therefore there is literally no record that the prosecution violated this statute and failed to conduct a trial in my case.  Furthermore, prosecutors have absolute immunity under the law, so there is no accountability for their illegal actions.  Your bond law simply exacerbates this situation by giving the prosecution a monetary incentive to ensure that a fair trial is not held.
  11. HB 999 and HB 538 together in addition to the underlying previous law, violate the Virginia and United States Constitutions regarding the ownership of property and in particular the clause now listed as 3.2-6570-1 in the Code of Virginia is a violation of both Constitutions.  You cannot legally prohibit someone from owning property, nor can you prohibit them from selling it.  Under Virginia law, animals are property. America was founded upon the fundamental right to own property, a right granted to all citizens.
  12. Virginia has absolutely no viable expungement law for victims who were falsely convicted and later proven to be innocent.  19.2.-392.2 is next to useless. 
Since the passage of HB 999 and the companion bill HB 538 (anti-breeder bill), no animal breeder has won a case and has received their animals back.   Wholesale raids are taking place of purebred animals in which the raiders attempt to take every single animal on the property.  You were told in 2008 that your bill was nothing more than a free pass for animal rights extremists and corrupt animal control officers to turn the Commonwealth into a Kmart to shop for any animals they wanted, and you didn’t listen to us.  My book, Staring the Dragon in the Eye, is proof that we were right.  This bill needs to be repealed in it’s entirely since it has no redeeming value of any kind.  There is no reason why animal seizures and removal of animals from their owners needs to take place. 

If necessary, in cases of true abuse, authorities can simply conduct a “seizure in place” where the animals stay where they are pending a court hearing and the court oversees any mandated upgrades of facilities, or care and treatment for the animals, they have ordered.   In that case, the owner is responsible for all costs because the animals are still on the owner’s property.   No removal should take place until after a defendant has been found guilty in a court of law, and only those animals involved by court order.  HB 999 was nothing more than charging an owner for being a victim of legalized theft.   Whether an animal owner is innocent or guilty, they still pay and they still lose their animals.  They literally can’t win. 


Katharine Dokken
Sic semper tyrannis

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