Cruelty charge in West Haven kitten case to be dismissed

Jul 22 2010 - 11:53pm

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Reese Ransom, 85
Reese Ransom, 85

OGDEN -- An aggravated animal-cruelty charge against a West Haven man who killed one of the stray cats he was caring for will be dismissed.

Reese Ransom, 85, could have faced up to a year in jail, but instead Thursday his no-contest plea was "taken in abeyance," meaning it will be dismissed in six months if Ransom avoids any more criminal charges.

The plea bargain was announced at Ransom's arraignment before 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon.

Ransom's lawyer, Loren Weiss, of the Salt Lake City law firm of Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy, one of the state's largest with more than 60 attorneys, piped up to tell the judge, "It was feral, a wild kitten," as Deputy Weber County Attorney Letitia Toombs described the offense: Ransom threw the kitten against a cement wall when it bit him.

A Weber County sheriff's deputy driving by witnessed the May 26 incident and contacted Weber County Animal Control Services. The kitten had to be euthanized because of its injuries.

Ransom suffered a bite mark to his left arm and torn skin on his right hand, the latter still bleeding slightly when the animal-control officer arrived, according to sheriff's reports.

Under terms of the plea bargain, Ransom was to pay a $250 abeyance fee and donate $300 to the Weber animal-control division, which he did Thursday.

The case drew something of an outcry from both sides.

An animal-rights organization, The Animal Advocacy Alliance of Utah, called for Ransom to be charged with a felony, while relatives, friends and neighbors said Ransom had fed and cared for stray cats for decades at his home, situated near an open area where unwanted pets are regularly discarded.

More than 20 supporters of Ransom attended his court hearing.

But according to a sheriff's reports of the May 26 incident, two other dead kittens were on his property and Ransom several times asked Deputy Bryce Weir and animal-control officer Betty Davis why they were bothering him "over a stupid cat."

After witnessing Ransom throw the kitten against the cement garage wall and walk away, Weir's report said Weir got out of his patrol car and walked to the garage, noting the kitten was still alive, but barely moving.

Ransom said "the kitten bit him so he threw it against the wall to kill it," Weir wrote.

Weir contacted animal control and had to leave to respond to another call. Upon his return, Davis had arrived and Weir took photos of the injured kitten, still alive and lying where it was thrown, and the wall.

Davis, according to her narrative, took the kitten to the county shelter, where it was euthanized, and also transported two other wild kittens she trapped on Ransom's property that Ransom said he would also kill if they weren't removed.

She wrote Ransom also mentioned there were two other dead kittens out by a ditch.

"Reese stated, 'They just died under my house,' " Davis wrote, and he tossed them by the ditch where "they would rot or something would carry them off."

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