A new petition to keep felony penalties attached to malicious animal killings is circulating on Change.org after the grisly slaying of an American Staffordshire Terrier named Rufus by a divorce-aggrieved Birmingham lawyer.
In July 2012, police said, James Stewart Robinson slit Rufus’ throat in retaliation against his now ex-wife amid a bitter custody battle over the dog. According to court reports, the Vestavia County Sheriff’s Office said that Robinson then texted his estranged spouse a photo of the Rufus and threatened to harm her as well, texting her “Your day is coming girl.”
He was convicted on harassment charges by the Vestavia Hills Municipal Court, but appealed those charges in Jefferson County Circuit Court where he now lives and is set to face trial in January.
According to the Change.org petition, presiding Judge Jonny Rochester has asked prosecutors to pursue misdemeanor charges instead of more serious felony charges, though Deputy Dwight Sloan, who investigates animal cruelty for the Jefferson County Sheriff, worked passionately to secure the more serious category of charges.
“Faced with the violent nature and sheer cruelty of the crime, both the Prosecutors and Deputy Sheriff in charge of the investigation are sticking to their guns and refusing to allow Robinson a mere slap on the wrist,” the petition reads. “However, the Judge is standing in the way of Rufus getting his day in court.”
“Please let Judge Rochester know that pets are family members, and the murder of one should be punished appropriately, as a FELONY, not reduced to a misdemeanor. By signing this petition, you are asking Judge Rochester to respect the police finding of this crime as a felony.”
The petition as of publication time had gathered 3,0110 signatures.