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Halifax County sued for arrest in dog dispute

South Boston News
Waddle
SoVaNow.com / April 05, 2018


Halifax County and its Animal Control department are being sued in federal court by a South Boston woman who was arrested and charged with felony larceny in December for picking up a stray dog by the roadside — charges that subsequently were dismissed in General District Court.

Christine Waddle of South Boston is the plaintiff in the civil lawsuit, which seeks compensatory damages of $750,000 plus $350,000 in punitive damages, as well as attorney fees. She is being represented by a Danville lawyer, D. Stan Barnhill of Woods Rogers PLC.

The complaint, filed on March 2 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Danville Division, names Todd Moser and Aundrea Claughton, employed with Halifax Animal Control, as defendants. Also named as defendants are Nicholas D. Jones, owner of the dog that Waddle took possession of, and Dre D. Tucker, who owned the tracking collar borne by the hunting dog, named “Slick.”

Animal Control was called in to resolve a dispute between Waddle and the hunters, Jones and Tucker, that ensued after Waddle picked up “Slick” while driving through the Vernon Hill area, on State Route 360 near Union Church Road, on the morning of Dec. 20, 2017. Waddle swerved to miss hitting the dog with her car, turned around and observed the dog to be emaciated, lethargic, and shaking.

As recounted in the federal filing, Waddle tried unsuccessfully to contact Animal Control or Jones, the dog’s owner, whose information appeared on a collar. She decided to take the dog to Animal Control and sent Jones a message on Facebook alerting him to meet her at the county animal shelter in Sinai.

When Waddle stopped for gas on her way to Animal Control, a truck pulled up and five men, including Jones and Tucker, jumped out and surrounded her car. Waddle contacted 911, which sent Animal Control and law enforcement to the Centerville convenience store where Waddle and the hunters had confronted each other.

Claughton arrived at the gas station, commented on the dog’s “starved and underweight” condition, and took the dog with him back to the shelter.

Animal Control immediately released the dog back to Jones with a “cruelty warning” and an order to “take the dog to a vet for evaluation within 24 hours. The vet recommended the dog be euthanized due to obvious signs of distemper.

Later the same day, Waddle contacted Claughton and informed him she planned to take further action against him for releasing a sick dog back to Jones. Claughton immediately contacted Jones and Tucker, asking them to come back to Animal Control to sign false, unsworn statements that Claughton used to obtain arrest warrants for Waddle from the court magistrate, the lawsuit alleges.

Claughton sought charges against Waddle of felony larceny for “taking” the tracking collar on the dog — it had a value above the $200 threshold for felony theft in Virginia — and misdemeanor larceny for “taking” the dog.

The Halifax County Sheriff’s Office served the arrest warrants on Waddle on December 26, at which time she was booked and a mug shot was taken. Waddle was released on a $1,500 unsecured bond with instructions to appear for an arraignment hearing at Halifax General District Court on January 3, 2018.

Waddle faced the possibility of up to 20 years in jail for the felony charge, one year in jail for the misdemeanor charge, and a fine of $2,500.

At the arraignment hearing on January 3, Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin told the court that she did not intend to prosecute the pending charges against Waddle, and the court dismissed the proceeding.

After the arraignment, Martin issued a public statement that said, in part, “The evidence did not indicate criminal intent as required by law.”

In a televised interview with WSLS TV after the arraignment, Moser stated, “Animal Control stands by the decision of what we did,” and that, “I stand behind the officer that was involved in the incident.” In addition, Moser stated that, “When Waddle refused to give the dog back to Jones … that constituted theft.”

On the same day, Claughton prepared an incident report recommending charges against Jones for “failure to provide veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering or disease transmission,” “failure to provide adequate shelter,” lack of county tags on three dogs,” and “lack of rabies vaccinations for three dogs.”

The court found Jones guilty only on “failure to provide veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering or disease transmission,” and dismissed all other charges.

The complaint filed by Barnhill contains nine counts, including:

» Three state or federal counts against Jones and Tucker for enabling Claughton to obtain warrants for Waddle’s arrest by providing false written statements to Claughton.

» Five state or local counts against Claughton for obtaining arrest warrants for Waddle based on the knowingly false statements of Jones and Tucker, causing the arrest and detainment of Waddle.

» State law counts against Moser and Claughton for filing criminal charges against Waddle that they knew could not be proven;

» State law count against Moser for making knowingly false statements about Waddle in a TV interview he knew would be broadcast to the public.

» State law count against Moser for making a false accusation of theft against Waddle in a TV interview he knew would broadcast to the public.

Waddle is asking the court for a jury trial on all counts in the complaint.



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Comments

Shes got a strong case. Halifax mucks up quite a bit and Mosers team dropped the ball big time. Claughton stands to be fired for his vendetta against Waddle when she criticized giving the dog back. Moser erred on this also. Its time to end this dog hunting rights that penalize landowners and those whom try to do the right thing. The kennel fees should be increased considerably and require yearly proof of vaccinations and inspected annually by halifax animal control. Looking forward to hearing more on this case

Comments

Get over yourself.

Comments

I hope this is the wake up call this county, and Commonwealth, needs to start enforcing laws, and not just the one they want to. Go get 'em!!!!


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