Williams to Love Shack onlookers: ‘I know my oath’
Then the mild-mannered judge launched into a 4-minute tirade, never raising his voice, but making his displeasure with outside groups trying to influence the case perfectly clear.
“I’m getting just about fed up,” Williams said about the emails and calls that have come into his office lobbying for harsh treatment of Sabrina Droescher, the rescue owner who had more than 100 dogs removed from her Love Shack operation in early April.
Droescher is suing to have 7 dogs returned to her care. Magistrate Ron DiCiolla turned her down on April 16, so Droescher appealed to the circuit court.
That’s the case Williams was scheduling Monday afternoon, setting a bench trial – no jurors – for 1 p.m. Aug. 9.
He gave Droescher, who is representing herself, and assistant prosecutor Charlie Johnson III deadlines for exchanging evidence and witness lists. He left in place DiCiolla’s order that the dogs in question remain in the custody of animal control.
Then the judge urged both parties that if they have any influence on outside rescue groups that they need to spread the word to stop contacting him.
“It’s unethical, and I don’t want to see any more,” Williams said. “I’ll decide this case.”
He said he had received at least 30 emails and several phone calls, all apparently from individuals and groups who want Droescher punished.
Animal rescuers have also been contacting the prosecutor’s office, Johnson said. A few have been in touch with the Hampshire Review as well.
A handful of rescuers in red shirts gathered on the lawn across from the Judicial Center before Monday’s hearing and they were there last Tuesday for another hearing in Droescher’s criminal case.
Williams expressed indignation that his court email address apparently had been circulated to dog rescue groups across the country – many, he noted, who don’t appear to know the facts of the case.
“I don’t need to be told what the right thing is to do,” Williams said as he wound down. “I know my oath of office.”
He mentioned a request that he upgrade the charges from misdemeanors to felonies – an issue he has no control over for a couple of reasons.
Primarily, Williams pointed out, he is only hearing the civil case by Droescher for the return of her dogs.
“The criminal case is outside my jurisdiction,” he said.
Droescher has been charged with 103 counts of animal cruelty, all misdemeanors being tried in magistrate court. West Virginia code only provides for a felony count of animal cruelty for intentional torture, mutilation or malicious killing of an animal.
The criminal case has been continued to early September because the prosecution is still assembling the massive amount of evidence to hand over to Droescher’s attorney in that case, Kevin Sponaugle.