Simon had his day in court, even though he was not with us. Had he been the victim of petty thievery and animal cruelty? These were the charges to be decided during the trial. What turned out to be the key issue was that of ownership, i.e. who owned or believed he/she owned Simon. Testimony from witnesses for the People and the Defendant was in conflict. Several witnesses testified that Brad was the owner. However, there could be no petty theft if Ms. Kluber was the owner, or if, as the judge said, she "believed" she was the owner. And euthanization is legal, so what about the charge of animal cruelty? You can guess the outcome.
There were some positives for pets. The DA did prosecute the case, and the defendant did have to stand trial. And, as the judge was summing up he shared some feelings. He said "I think Ms. Kluber did Mr. Gray a disservice by what she did". And, of course, we know that what she did was to have Simon euthanized without considering or consulting Brad Gray. The judge also said, "if I were called upon to say whose cat it was, I would say it was more Bradley Gray's cat than anybody else's....".However, the judge found "not guilty" on both counts.
In considering the charge of petty theft the judge found that the defendant's good faith belief, even if mistakenly held, was that she had a right or claim to property, i.e. Simon. That belief negated any felonious intent necessary for conviction of theft. Therefore the defendant, not Simon, prevailed, as the finding was not guilty.
The charge of animal cruelty required that the actions of the defendant had to be malicious, that there had to be intent to do a wrongful act. A wrongful act could be torture, but euthanization is legal. Euthanization could be a wrongful act if it was done on another person's property, but the judge had already determined ownership in finding the defendant "not guilty" to the charge of petty theft because she "believed" she was the owner.
So, what has been accomplished? The DA brought the case to trial for prosecution. This is very significant as we make inroads in speaking up for our pets. We applaud and thank Gary Lieberstein for his support. The judge recognized Brad's genuineness, while offering condolences. He said that Ms. Kluber could have been much more considerate of Brad's feelings before doing what she did. The level of consciousness was raised in the judicial system, and Simon's voice was heard. But, the finding was really that there was a disservice, not petty theft or animal cruelty. In our last update we mentioned Brad's goal. It was "to ensure that no other families have to endure this sort of loss, and that no other loving pets see the same fate".
We have taken a step towards meeting Brad's goal. Previously, we had never seen an arrest, to say nothing of prosecution in a case where a pet was taken by a neighbor to be killed at a local animal control shelter. In Simon's case charges were brought, an arrest made, and a trial held on Simon's behalf.
The last time Brad Gray saw Simon was on Friday, November 30, 2001. That evening, when Brad returned from work, Simon did not come to greet him. Because that greeting was typical of Simon, Brad began to worry.
The next day, Saturday, Brad called and called for Simon and asked all his neighbors if they had seen Simon. They all said they hadnít but promised to keep an eye out for him. Bradís search for Simon continued through Sunday, and on Monday he took the day off from work to look for him. He went to the Humane Society at 10:00 a.m. to file a missing cat report and to see if Simon was there. He placed an ad on KVYN radio and in his local paper, the Napa Register. He made "missing cat" signs and posted them all over his neighborhood and at bulletin boards and other sites all around Napa. He again asked his neighbors if theyíd seen Simon, and again they said no.
The following evening, Tuesday, December 4th, Brad again spoke with his next-door neighbor, Darlene Kluber, and asked her if she knew where Simon was. To Bradís horror, Darlene finally admitted that she had had Simon put to sleep because he was sitting near her birdbath.
Brad called the police and made a report of animal cruelty with the Napa Sheriffís Department.
The following day, Wednesday, Brad went to the Humane Society hoping Simon might still be alive. He was not. Brad was told that Mrs. Kluber had signed a paper stating that she was the owner of Simon, (she had registered his name as "Stupid"), and paid a fee of $31 to have him euthanized. Brad was also told that the Animal Control Supervising Officer Kelly Tracey and her assistant Tanya had pleaded with Mrs. Kluber not to have Simon put down; they had pointed out that he was beautiful, young, healthy and friendly, (he had evidently been purring on the counter at the Humane Society). Officer Tracey had guaranteed that the cat would be adopted by Christmas. Mrs. Kluber refused to reconsider and had Simon destroyed immediately.
Brad then contacted Voices For Pets. I advised Brad to obtain a police report and have his veterinarian and neighbors make written statements to the sheriffís department saying that Simon belonged to Brad.
I met with Brad in Napa and he gave me copies of the police report and all of the statements, including his own, plus pictures of Simon. I then submitted all of the above to the Napa Valley Register and on January 11, 2002 Simonís picture and story ran on page one. Three days later Darlene Kluber was charged with misdemeanor cruelty to an animal and petty theft.
Brad says, "Simon was the friendliest and most affectionate cat that I have ever encountered... My cats are the only family I have around here. Besides being very angry about what happened to Simon, I really miss him. There is a void in my life. Nino, Bradís other cat and Simonís buddy, misses him too. He just sits at the window and cries, or even wanders through the house looking for Simon."
Brad Grayís relationship with Simon began two years ago when Bradís next door neighbor, Tom Kluber, was coming home from work on a rainy evening and saw a kitten being tossed out of a van in front of him. Not wanting to leave the kitten in the middle of the street, Tom took the kitten home and let it go.
Brad met Simon when the kitten found his way into Bradís home through a window Gray leaves open so his other cat, Nino, can come and go. Brad says it was in October of 1999 that he heard a meowing and expected it to be Nino, but instead found a little white kitten in his house. Brad says, "He was so sick. He had mites in his ears. He was completely flea infested... had diarrhea and tapeworms. I took him to the vet the next day and fixed him all up and got medicine for his fleas and tapeworms. From then on Simon stayed with me and Nino. Simon was on the hood of my car before I could stop in the driveway. He slept on my bed. When I was home he stuck to me like glue. Tom (Kluber) even said one time he was glad the cat found someone who wanted it."
December 2003 Update
In our last update, we promised to let you know the outcome of "Simon's" trial. You may recall that when Simon disappeared Brad Gray pursued many avenues looking for him only to learn that a neighbor, Darlene Kluber, had Simon euthanized at the Napa County Animal Control. At that time misdemeanor cruelty to animal and petty theft charges were filed against Ms. Kluber. Well, a trial was held! District Attorney (DA) Gary Lieberstein remained steadfast, did not drop Simon's case, and a trial was held. Honorable Stephen T. Krozer presided.
Simonís veterinarian as well as neighbors and others who know Simon have signed statements that Simon was Bradís cat, and that Simon lived with and was cared for by Brad. One statement, for instance, describes Brad as "a doting dad to both cats," and writes, "To my knowledge there has never been any question that Bradley Gray was Simonís owner."
Darlene Kluber, however, told the investigators that she felt Simon was technically still the property of her and her husband, since it was her husband who had brought Simon home two years before.
Brad is crushed and confused by Mrs. Kluberís behavior. "She never mentioned to me there was a problem with Simon and the birds." Brad says, "If she had only told me Simon was bothering the birds, I would have kept him inside... put a bell on his neck to warn the birds. I would have even moved. Iím just renting this place."
Brad Gray would like the animal shelter to change its policy related to euthanizing healthy animals, asking that the ownership of the animal be ascertained with greater certainty than it is now.
Tracey, at the animal shelter, is hoping that a recent change in procedure at the animal shelter will prevent incidents similar to the killing of Simon in the future. From now on, in addition to name and address of the petís owner and information about the animal, anyone requesting the shelter euthanize an animal will have to sign a form, stating under penalty of perjury, that they are the animalís legal owner.
We are asking that this case receive District Attorney Gary Liebersteinís full attention and that justice is done. Brad writes, "My goal is to ensure that no other families have to endure this sort of loss, and that no other loving pets see the same fate that my buddy Simon did. Simon did nothing wrong. Our Humane Society could not protect him, nor could I. It is up to District Attorney Gary Lieberstein to ensure that our pets cannot be arbitrarily killed by our neighbors."
Space does not allow us to write about every cruelty case that Voices For Pets becomes involved with. As tremendously disturbing as this case is it should be mentioned that Voices For Pets has received many heart wrenching pleas for help from families whoís pets were taken by a neighbor to be killed by local animal control shelters. We have never before seen an arrest, to say nothing of prosecution.
Letters can be addressed to:
931 Parkway Mall
Napa, CA 94558 Send Faxes to:
Attention: Gary Lieberstein
Early in the case Lieberstein said he would not drop this case and the only plea-bargain he has offered is to drop the petty theft charge in exchange for a plea of guilty to the cruelty to an animal charge. For over a year Lieberstein has kept his word. There have been many delays including three cancelled trial dates. Voices for Pets will let you know the outcome of the trial, and hopefully the sentence, in a future update.
We are the voices of those who, like Simon, cannot speak for themselves and we are being heard.