Des Moines to Pay $50,000 in attorney’s fees for shooting of Rosie the Dog
After almost two and a half agonizing years, the case of Rosie the Newfoundland is finally closed.
U.S. District Court Judge James Robart has ordered the City of Des Moines to pay $50,000 to Rosie’s owners, Charles and Deirdre Wright, for attorney’s fees and related costs.
This award is on top of the $51,000 in damages the city earlier agreed to pay the Wrights for their loss of Rosie.
The dog was gunned down by Des Moines police officers while she cowered in blackberry brambles in a neighbor’s back yard on Nov. 7, 2010.
At a hearing on April 1, the judge dismissed an attempt by the city to have fees reduced for Bellingham-based animal-rights lawyer Adam Karp.
Attorney Shannon Ragonesi argued on behalf of the city that those fees should be offset by the amount of private financial contributions paid to Karp by friends and angry dog owners to offset the Wright’s legal expenses.
The Wrights should recover no more than $7,549, she said.
But, said Robart in rejecting Ragonesi’s claim, “I don’t believe that the solicitation of public donations makes any difference in this [case]….
“The “situation we have here [is] where people wish to contribute to a fund to finance litigation in support of the principles that they believe in, namely, don’t shoot dogs.”
Rosie had been reported loose on a residential street to Des Moines Police that Nov. 7.
Jan Magnuson, the city’s animal control officer, was off duty that day so four police officers, including Sgt. Steve Wieland and Officer Michael Graddon, were dispatched to that location.
After chasing and yelling at Rosie, then trying to Taser her, Wieland and Graddon followed the fleeing dog into a back yard, where she was shot four times while cowering in the blackberry thicket.
The Wrights, who were not home at the time, did not learn from the police department for two days what had happened to Rosie.
After separate investigations by the city, the King County Prosecutors Office, and Pierce County Animal Control, no charges were filed against the two officers.
The shooting was considered justified because they were acting within department procedures at the time.
Nevertheless, flaws in the city’s animal control response where noted – especially when Magnuson was off duty – and changes in training and protocols were made by both the police department and city council.
None of this consoled the Wrights for the loss of their dog, nor did it satisfy their need for justice and compensation for that loss.
On to Court
So in January 2011, Karp filed a motion in Des Moines Municipal Court seeking to bring misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against Graddon, who fired the shots, and Wieland, ordered the shooting.
The officers claimed that Rosie appeared to be a dangerous animal.
This case eventually was transferred to Snohomish County Municipal Court, where it was dismissed that summer. Karp appealed to Superior Court there, but the case again was dismissed – on a technicality – in 2012.
Last December, he filed a civil complaint against the City of Des Moines, Wieland and Graddon in U.S. District Court, seeking monetary damages for the Wrights.
Graddon and Wieland consented to the $51,000 settlement for the Wrights, Karp announced after the city agreed in February to compensate them.
On Apr. 15, the Washington Cities Insurance Authority paid the Wrights and Karp $101,162.78 for the city.
The Wrights then dropped all claims against the police officers.
Karp called this “the largest known, non-default judgment ever recovered in Washington for the injury or death of a companion animal” – excluding legal costs.
“Lack of Civility”
In a legal brief supporting the city’s case, Ragonesi also claimed the Wrights had persecuted the two officers by seeking to file a criminal complaint against them despite the fact that no charges were ever filed.
This elicited a sharp rebuke from Robart, who declared, “The treatment of the Jews by the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt, that was a persecution. What Nazi Germany did in the Third Reich, that is a persecution….
“Ethnic cleansing is a persecution,” he continued. “When someone seeks to believe, rightly or wrongly, that they are attempting to bring these people to justice, that is not a persecution …. Counsel, that is just terrible writing. It shows a lack of civility.”
Crusade for Training
In the wake of the Rosie case, Karp is now embarking on a new crusade for animals.
“I intend to bring a petition for rulemaking in an effort to persuade the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission to provide canine threat perception/humane neutralization training to all new cadets and in continuing education programs,” he said in a news release.
“I will report back when that occurs.”