by Katharine Dokken - September 3, 2016.
At left: Katharine with renowned tiger trainer Carlos Quinones, Mindy Patterson, President of The Cavalry Group, and exotic animal trainer Doug Terranova at the USDA Headquarters, Washington, DC, 2016.
Just some good old boys, never meaning any harm. Or so the old song goes, but in modern day Hazzard County, better known as Fauquier County Virginia, the most corrupt county in the state, there is no hero in this tale of loss. As I wrote previously, in October of 2014, Doctor Howard van Nostrand was out bow hunting with his 10 year old son Taylor, to celebrate Taylor's birthday. Suddenly a fellow "hunter", in reality a closet animal rights activist that Dr. van Nostrand didn't know, texted the hunting party that two huge German Shepherds were chasing deer through the woods, and just as suddenly one of the Shepherds changed his course and charged at Dr. van Nostrand and his son. Having just received this text warning him of the presence of wild dogs in the woods, Dr. van Nostrand sees a dog with his ears pinned back and hackles raised coming at his son, just feet away. Seeing no collar or tags, Dr. van Nostrand reacted to save the life of his son and shot the dog dead with a single shot. Feeling compassion for the dog, Dr. van Nostrand shot him a second time to ensure that the dog was dead and not suffering. The second dog seeing the first dog shot, yelped and ran off.
Dr. van Nostrand called 911 to report the incident and things took a turn for the worse. Given they never bothered to investigate or process the scene in any way though later they would claim they did, Dr. van Nostrand was shocked when he was arrested and charged with felony cruelty to animals and destruction of property. Even more shocking is the fact that the arrest warrant is signed by Conservation Police Officer Eric Plaster of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, a department that has no jurisdiction over the death of dogs in Virginia.
Notified of the death of their dog by the local cops, the dogs owners played the martyr card on social media and tried to claim that they dearly loved these so-called "pet" dogs. Dogs that they made no attempt to keep on their property and had a history of aggressively menacing the public. It continues to get worse from here.
In Virginia, no judge has been removed from the bench since 1945. In the Commonwealth, blind, crippled and crazy frequently sits on the bench. No one cares that locally despised Judge Whisenant is related to the leaders of the local SPCA, giving him a bias against defendants in his rulings. In fact, Fauquier's courtrooms are so notoriously corrupt that only local Judge Parker is hated worse than Whisenant. Judge Parker faced an attempt to remove him from the bench in 2009 when outraged citizens attempted to block his re-nomination at the Virginia State Assembly. Judge Parker is relevant here because this is actually Judge Parker's case. At one of several preliminary hearings, Dr. van Nostrand's lawyer tried file a motion to challenge the felony charges because Virginia lists this crime as a misdemeanor. Judge Parker ordered him to refile the motion at trial only to pass the case off to Whisenant who refused to hear the motion when the case actually came to trial
Since when is defending the life of your son from a vicious dog attack, an inhumane injury to a dog? Whose life matters more? The stray dog or a small boy? Additionally, Dr. van Nostrand's lawyer challenged the fake inflated value of the dog which bumped the second charge up to a felony. Since when can anyone arbitrarily assign the value of $5,000 to a stray dog? Parker refused to hear both motions.
Once the case finally goes to trial, it can be summed up as incompetents certified as expert witnesses while true experts are banned from testifying, fake sob stories made up about the dog and passed off as reality while the dogs true vicious history is suppressed, and repeated prosecution misconduct over not only the dog's method of death, but also fake testimony over text messages that do not exist. Instead of submitting the actual forensic report completed on Dr. van Nostrand's cell phone, witnesses instead lied. In particular, animal rights apologist James Pinsky, testified that Dr. van Nostrand texted him and told him to shoot the dogs when no such text messages exist. The defense nailed Pinsky on this until Judge Whisenant shut them down.
Defense cross-examination of Pinsky on witness stand: "Now you are the one that started talking about shooting the dogs; correct?"
Pinsky: "I'm the one that asked Howard if he wanted me to shoot the dogs, yes, sir."
Then he claimed he never thought about shooting the dogs, not even once.
Defense: So you just sent him a random text, "Do you want me to shoot the dogs," because you had no reason to do that?
Pinsky answered, Yes.
Judge then shut down any further questioning about why Pinsky who claimed he had no thoughts at all about killing the dogs would have sent text messages to Dr. van Nostrand saying he did, except to try and frame Dr. van Nostrand for a crime.
Additionally, no necropsy was done of the dog to prove how it died, instead Prosecutor Marion Hazel of the multi-millionaire land developer Hazel family and recent Harvard Law School graduate, kept telling the jury that Dr. van Nostrand just willy-nilly shot the dog in the tail apparently because she felt he was some sort of cruel and sadistic person. Absolutely no evidence was presented that the dog had any injuries to its tail. Even better a self-described dog trainer named Kyle Ramsey who sold the dogs to the LeValleys is certified as an "expert" by the court. When the defense challenged the court as to what makes Ramsey an expert since he is not certified or licensed by any valid authority to train dogs, the court ruled that he is because he says he is.
The trial transcripts are full of interesting turns, including the fake sob story about how the dead dog was Karen LeValley's special pet that she loved so much because it took the place of a daughter that she had never had and how her other dog just magically now has mental problems from this incident. Sounds tear jerking right? But I would question if this dog was so special to Karen LeValley, then why did she testify that the dog was forced to sleep in the garage? How is a dog that she testified was worth up to $25,000 allowed to sleep in the garage and roam through Maryland and Virginia as a stray dog attacking people at will? When challenged as to their ludicrous price on their dogs, both LeValleys testified that they didn't actually pay $3,000 to train the dogs. In fact they paid nothing. As they revealed in court, they bred puppies and gave Kyle Ramsey a litter of puppies in exchange for dog training. This is important because not only is the $3,000 fee a lie, but Prosecutor Hazel uses this fake evidence to justify why Dr. van Nostrand was charged with a felony. In fact, neither the LeValleys or Ramsey could agree on how much they paid for the dog. Craig LeValley testified the dog was worth $15,000. Karen LeValley testified the dog was worth $20,000 and Ramsey testified the dog was worth $4,500.
Their story gets even weirder when Craig LeValley revealed on cross-examination that the dog was trained to guard a computer warehouse with up to $10 million in government computers for an agency that "doesn't exist" because Karen LeValley had been turned down for a concealed carry permit. Let that one sink in. She claims she got the dog for personal protection while working in a warehouse for "an agency that doesn't exist" because she couldn't get a concealed hand gun permit. Really? No federal government agency will allow you to bring your own personal protection dog to work. And if your job is so dangerous, the Agency itself will either have guards at the facility or issue you a weapon from the agency itself. This story is so bogus it stinks but the court wouldn't allow any challenge to it. At least the defense forced Craig LeValley to admit that the dogs had been trained to attack humans. He admitted Morgan in particular did bite people during training.
At the end of the day, an unlicensed dog trainer was certified as an "expert" while a real board certified physiatrist, international expert and prolific writer in trauma and recovery Dr. Mary Beth Williams, was blocked from testifying. Only in Fauquier's notoriously corrupt courtrooms is a board certified doctor not considered an expert while a self-taught dog trainer, is. Even better Judge Whisenant ruled that defense witness Dr. Richard Walsh, a licensed veterinarian with 50 years of experience in canine behavior and breeding German Shepherds was not qualified to testify to general dog behavior or how much dogs are worth. It was particularly humorous when the prosecution attempted to cross examine him and discredit even the small amount of testimony he was able to give, enabling Dr. Walsh after all, to give the testimony that the Judge was trying to stop, "When they are doing that, they are acting out behaviors that are -- I've seen it in my own German Shepherds over the years -- they're acting out behaviors which will kill. That's what they're out to do." The prosecutor slunk back with her tail between her legs after that one.
Judge Whisenant also blocked the jury from hearing from the private investigator who dug up evidence that these dogs were aggressive, routinely allowed to stray, and previously attacked an 80 year old man in a wheelchair. The Judge blocked reports from one former neighbor that she was "scared to death" of the LeValley's aggressive dogs and another that Karen LeValley in particular framed her and that she had been forced to pay a fine because of LeValley's false allegations and lived in personal fear of the LeValley family. During testimony Judge Whisenant kept lecturing Dr. van Nostrand's lawyer and telling him to "hurry up" and stating he was taking too long to question witnesses when Prosecutor Hazel was allowed all the time in the world to present her case. At other times when the defense was correctly addressing the Court, Whisenant would tell Dr. van Nostrand's lawyer to sit down and shut up. If you are looking for fair and unbiased justice, you won't find it in a Fauquier court.
At the end of testimony, the closing statement of Prosecutor Hazel to the jury was a masterpiece of tear jerking lies. She said, "It was that first arrow going through Morgan's rear that causing her intestines to exit out her belly that caused her to scream in pain." Actually no witness ever testified that Morgan was shot in the rear end and no such wound existed. This is all a figment of Hazel's fervent imagination designed to sway a jury against Dr. van Nostrand. Hazel went on to tell the jury, "that dog was screaming and writhing in pain." No one witnessed the dog's death but Dr. van Nostrand and his son who testified the dog died immediately. No one else was there. Hazel goes on to reel in the jury by talking about how Morgan was a family dog, "she lived right under their feet" and in fact, "they named her after the daughter that they were not able to have," as Hazel piled on the pathos. If they loved this dog so much, why was it sleeping out in the garage at night? That's not living right under their feet. But then Prosecutors have immunity under the law. They can lie as much as they want.
At the end of the trial Dr. van Nostrand was found guilty of two felonies, stripped of all his constitutional rights and immediately jailed by a vindictive judge. The defense asked for time so Dr. van Nostrand could shut down his medical practice and the Judge said no. Cuff him and stuff him. Prosecutor Hazel committed so much misconduct during the trial, that Dr. van Nostrand filed an ethics complaint against her with the Virginia State Bar. As is typical in America's fundamentally corrupt judicial system, the Virginia State Bar just shrugged and said, "you are now a convicted felon, so what?"
In the end you have to admire Dr. van Nostrand. Down but not out, he wrote his own appeal and submitted it to the court. He once again pointed out that Virginia law does not define what willfully inflicting an inhumane injury to a dog is. There is absolutely no definition of this crime under Virginia law. Basically, Prosecutor Hazel just made it up and Fauquier's courts rubberstamped it into law. And last but not least, Dr. van Nostrand continues to stand on his contention that he has the right to defend the life of himself and his son from the danger posed by an out of control vicious stray dog. Period.
Threatened that he still won't give up his quest for justice, Hang 'em High Prosecutor James Fisher and his assistant John Chichester wrote an extensive appeal to dispute the good Doctor's claims. In the appeal, the Commonwealth once again lied and stated it was "highly unusual for the dogs to roam." Yeah, tell that to the traumatized former neighbors of the LeValley's who were terrified of the dogs. And of course the motion continues to lie about the text messages that don't exist and how much the Le Valley's had paid for the dog. If that isn't bad enough, the Commonwealth now claims in their motion that Kyle Ramsey is a "registered" dog trainer when Ramsey testified in court that he's not certified anywhere. But don't worry, the corrupt courts of the Commonwealth are relying on a bad legal judgment in another case, Stockton v. Commonwealth (1984) to state that all evidence against defendants must be viewed in the light that is most favorable to the government, not the victim they are railroading. And to top it off, the Commonwealth claims that any possible misstatement of facts they may have made the Doctor's case, especially their lies over the text messages are simply nothing more than harmless error. Or as the good Doctor summed up their objection to his appeal, "what difference does it make?"