News Index > Sortable News 10/06 - nowNovember 2007
Letter to US Judge Russell W. Annich

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Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dog Owners Plan Defamation Suit
The Trenton Times
by Linda Stein
November 12, 2007

PRINCETON TOWNSHIP, NJ -- The case of Congo the German shepherd, who has been condemned to death by a Municipal Court judge for mauling a landscaper, has taken another bizarre turn Monday as the dogs' owners, Guy and Elizabeth James, notified the township that they plan to sue it and animal control Officer Mark Johnson for defamation.

In the incident, which occurred on June 5, gardeners entered the family's fenced, 10-acre property after they were told to wait in the car while the dogs were secured, said Guy James. The dogs began barking and one of the workers began swinging a rake at them, James said. James said the dogs had been hit with the rake at that time.

Meanwhile, another worker grabbed Elizabeth James to hide behind her from the dogs, causing her to scream. The second time, he pulled her to the ground, stretching her shirt, as she was trying to help him to get up, Guy James said. It was at that point that Congo jumped up on him.

In a Trenton newspaper, Johnson was quoted Saturday as saying that the James family "may have intentionally wounded one of the pups to make it look in worse shape than it was."

Reached by phone Monday, Johnson denied that he said the Jameses inflicted the injury to the 6-month old German shepherd to back up their story that one of the landscapers was hitting the dogs with a rake. Johnson contended that he merely said the injury had not been there when he examined the dogs 15 minutes after the incident.

The landscaper, Giovanni Rivera, suffered bites and scratches on various parts of his body, including a bite to his thigh, and was given an insurance settlement of $250,000.

Meanwhile, Robert Lytle, a lawyer for James, also filed a motion asking Municipal Court Judge Russell Annich Jr. to release Congo into Guy James' custody pending appeal to Superior Court. Congo is being held in an animal shelter pending the outcome of the litigation.

Annich is expected to place his ruling on the record Tuesday. In anticipation of that, a newly formed group, the Coalition to Save Congo, plans a rally at 400 Witherspoon St., beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Contact Linda Stein: [email protected]

11 November 2007

Russell W. Annich, Judge Fax: 609-924-5902
Princeton Township Courthouse
400 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ 08540

Dear Judge Annich:
     I am writing regarding the James family of Princeton (Guy, Elizabeth, their children, and their dog, Congo). Congo is the James' family dog who is currently incarcerated for attempting to protect his beloved family from attack by a stranger. Congo is also the dog you have sentenced to death.
Your death sentence for this dog has got to be the cruelest part of this whole tragedy. In reviewing the reports of this case from various sources, it has become apparent to all involved that:
Giovanni Rivera, the landscaper who was bitten by Congo, arrived with the landscaping crew at the 10-acre fenced property an hour before their scheduled arrival time. Guy James, who was about to take a shower, called out the window to them in Spanish to tell them to get back into their car and wait because the dogs were in the backyard being fed. Instead, Rivera and another worker disobeyed instructions and got out of the car, whereupon the dogs began to bark, as any dog would in seeing a stranger approach his property. At that point, the worker began to hit the dogs with a metal rake. In any state in the union, Judge Annich, that is considered animal abuse. However, when Mrs. James yelled for him to stop, Rivera instead attacked her from behind and pulled her to the ground. Congo, seeing his beloved mistress attacked by this stranger, began to bite and scratch Rivera. He was protecting his family who was being attacked. Yet your ruling stated that "the prevailing circumstances did not constitute provocation and that the attack upon Mr. Rivera, initiated by Congo and subsequently by the other dogs present. . . was a response grossly disproportionate to the prevailing situation." Good grief! What would constitute "provocation" in your eyes? If someone attacked your wife that way, Judge Annich, what would you do?

And what would you do if, after all this trauma, a judge destroyed your family the way you have destroyed the James family? You have caused them grief beyond description. Eleven-year- old Hannah James has begged for her dog's life. She, her brother, their friends, and all the children in the area schools who are being taught how wonderful our justice system is have learned, instead, that it is not truly a "justice" system at all. What a wonderful example you have set for these young people, Judge Annich. You can certainly be proud of the justice you have meted out to an animal who was only protecting the family he loves.

The only way you can even begin to rectify the gross miscarriage of justice you have inflicted upon the James family, these citizens of Princeton, is to rescind this sentence of death, give the dog Congo back to the James family, and hope that time will rebuild their confidence and the confidence of the citizens of Princeton in their judiciary system.

Please do not add more misery to their lives by killing their protector.
Adele H. Mirshak
P. O. Box 1354
Richmond, TX 77406-1354

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