In Iowa and across the nation, there’s only one thing snowballing faster than the white stuff falling from the sky, and that’s the anger and outrage — downright rancor, in fact — toward Sioux City puppy killer Bobby Loggins and District Court Judge Gary E. Wenell, who, despite calling Loggins’ actions “depraved and sadistic” sentenced Loggins to only 30 days in jail (with credit for time already served), rather than imposing the maximum sentence of two years under Iowa law.
Adding insult to injury, Judge Wenell justified his decision — witnessed by a packed courtroom of dog lovers and owners, many of whom openly wept — by stating, “We must remember the victim herein was not a person,” and “[Sire] was not some valuable fancy show dog belonging to another. It was not a neighbor boy’s dog, it was not an elderly person’s companion…We do not have a statewide problem with this kind of crime.”
Wow. Just try telling any veterinarian that one’s own Border Collie beaten 30 times in the head felt less pain than neighbor boy Johnny Smith’s Border Collie, whom he also beat. Just try telling police that just because your mixed-breed terrier is bleeding from the mouth and ears and nose after you punched and kicked him that it’s really no big deal, because, after all, “Gee, it’s not like I did this to ol’ elderly Ethel Simpson’s companion dog down the road.”
Worse, just try looking into the eyes of a 50-pound bleeding and dying American Bulldog pup who wanted nothing more than to serve and love you but really just couldn’t help himself from piddling on the floor after you fed him bowl after bowl of beer, and just try telling him how his short life and the pain you inflicted on him didn’t matter because, after all, it wasn’t like he was a fancy show dog or anything. It wasn’t like he belonged to someone else. It wasn’t like he could suffer or feel pain. It wasn’t like he wasn’t yours to use and abuse as you saw fit. And, if there were any doubts about the rights you had to inflict such heinous and hideous cruelty upon him, just remind him this is Iowa where people can get away with things like that. Tell him too, that if he doesn’t believe you, well…. he could have introduced you to a judge who’d have set you straight had you not died.
When I wrote my original post here on the blog about Bobby Loggins pounding to death his 5-month-old American Bulldog, “Sire,” for piddling on the floor, I had no foresight of the venom about to spew forth from across the country after Loggins’ sentencing. The judge’s slap-on-the-wrist punishment sparked a chain reaction of outrage and vitriolic comments with regard to Iowa’s double-edged and reprehensible miscarriage of justice.
I also, admittedly, did not know the full extent to which poor Sire was beaten and suffered until the recent court proceedings. And though it pains me even now to include those details absent from my original post, they are precisely why our state and every other state needs to recognize that tolerating such abominable acts is precursory to eroding one’s very morals and soul. When that happens, can the breakdown of families and communities be far behind?
Show and Tell: Value’s Sliding Scale
Not until Judge Gary Wenell’s Feb. 12, 2010, decision of Bobby Loggins’ fate did I really recognize the extent to which lives are graded on a sliding scale. It’s a tough thing to swallow. Like bile. The lesson began last June.
On June 9, 2009, Bobby Loggins, then 35, spent the first part of the day drinking beer, smoking marijuana and fishing with his friend, Chad Peterson. After the two returned to Loggins’ home at 1611 23rd Street in Sioux City and were joined by other friends for a party, Loggins began feeding his 5-month-old American Bulldog, Sire, “bowl after bowl of beer,” according to Peterson.
When Sire began to urinate on the dining room floor, Loggins — who has a history of drug and alcohol abuse — straddled the pup and restrained it with one hand while using the other to repeatedly strike blows to the dog’s head. He then picked Sire up by his ears and tail and took him outside through a back door.
Witnesses said (and later testified) that when Loggins eventually brought the puppy back into the house and placed it on the kitchen floor, that the brown and white pup was bleeding from the mouth and nose, shaking and unable to move.
“To me it looked like the dog was paralyzed,” Peterson stated. “He was shaking. It looked like convulsions. He was coughing up blood.”
Peterson said he knelt down and tried to comfort the puppy while Loggins just stood there, showing no remorse for what he had done. When Peterson confronted Loggins about his [lack of] reaction, Loggins shoved him into a chair and ordered him to leave. Peterson obliged and peddled his bike to the Kum & Go station at 14th and Court streets, where he called police.
Guest Kollin Jones said he’d witnessed Loggins rubbing the dog’s nose into the carpet before pinning it down to inflict additional punches. Jones also said that he, his girlfriend, Alexandra Groves, Loggins and his wife and Peterson had engaged in a conversation about dogs drinking beer, and told police Loggins “took it way too far.”
Loggins’ wife, Rochelle Loggins, didn’t see it that way. Rochelle Loggins said her husband had only given the dog “a few taps on the head” before grabbing it by the collar and escorting it outside. She said her husband told her he had slammed the door into the dog.
Loggins was charged with animal torture, though Iowa’s current animal cruelty/torture laws allowed no more than aggravated misdemeanor charges being filed in his case, which carried a sentence of up to just two years in prison and a $6,000 fine. On June 18, 2009, Loggins pleaded not guilty to inflicting the 30 blows to Sire’s head that caused the puppy’s death.
On Friday, Dec. 18, 2009, Loggins stood trial before Sioux City District Court Judge Gary Wenell for allegedly beating Sire to death. Loggins, who waived his right to a jury trial, also was charged with making a false police report, a simple misdemeanor. Wenell dismissed that charge when Assistant Woodbury County Attorney Mark Campbell said the facts of the case did not fit the charge.
Wenell found Loggins guilty of the animal torture crime on January 25, 2010, with sentencing scheduled for Feb. 12.
As eyes across the nation focused on Iowa that day, it came as no surprise when Loggins’ attorney, John Moeller, and Loggins’ wife pleaded for a shorter sentence than the two-year maximum pushed for by the prosecutor. Rochelle Loggins argued she needed him at home to take care of the kids while she slept so she could work nights.
No one, however, ever imagined the nonsequitur the judge would deliver.
Wenell wrote that eyewitness accounts and testimony of the veterinarian clearly indicated that Loggins’ actions caused the puppy’s death. Loggins had restrained the puppy with one hand in order to inflict blows with the other, which Wenell said caused the animal severe physical pain.
Additionally, though no witnesses saw what happened outside, Wenell wrote that circumstantially, the evidence supported that additional blows took place outside, and that Loggins took the dog outside because he knew his actions would be deemed unacceptable.
“Restraint of a more or less helpless creature to administer pain to such a creature connotes depravity and sadism,” he wrote.
Yet after noting all these facts, the judge then stripped 95 percent off the maximum sentence, sentenced Loggins to only 30 days in jail and credited him for time already served.
“[Sire] was not some valuable fancy show dog belonging to another,” he said.
A fancy show dog? Belonging to another?
The sliding scale nosedived. I choked on the intimations: Show me a plumber and I’ll tell you why his life is less important than a bank’s vice president. Show me your next-door neighbor’s 5-month-old daughter and I’ll tell you why her life matters more than your own little girl’s. Show me a champion greyhound on the track and I’ll tell you why his life is valued more than that happy-go-lucky family retriever racing to fetch the frisbee your son threw in your back yard.
Wenell also stated that Iowa didn’t have a statewide problem with animal torture and that there was no evidence that Loggins — whose prior convictions include drug possession and traffic offenses — would commit similar violent acts against people. Loggins will be on probation for 18 months upon his release, and the possible $6,000 fine was shaved down to only $650.
Loggins was to report to the Woodbury County Jail by 6 p.m. on February 17th.
“We have to start as a community to change this, and today we didn’t do very good,” said animal rescuer Terry Mann, who added she was more motivated than ever to continue her fight against abuse. “We’ll be watching,” she said, “we’ll be watching, and you’ll be seeing us.”
In a landslide of raging injustice across Iowa and beyond, one question remained consistent: How could something like this have happened in our justice system?
For the answer, my friends, look no further than the voter registration card in your wallet or desk drawer, and if you hold it just right, you’ll see the state legislature in its reflection.
Making the Grade
Remember your school report cards? Yeah, me too. We may not always have liked all those grades, but how else were we to know if our efforts added up to usual, customary and reasonable standards? Report cards measure progress. They highlight our strengths, punctuate our weaknesses and enable us to work toward realizing our own individual capabilities.
Report cards don’t end after high school or college. The follow us throughout our lifetimes: in our jobs, in our families and communities, and even all the way to the legislature and beyond. We’re constantly being summed up, evaluated, measured and compared, and assigned a grade. Terry Mann knows this well; people are watching.
According to tabs kept on Rep. King by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), one might even say he’s a good friend to the likes of Bobby Loggins, who, fortunately for Loggins, just happens to reside in Steve King’s district. The HSUS, you see, also does report cards. Legislators nationwide are scored according to his or her vote on specific pro- or anti-animal related issues — everything from puppy mills and horse slaughtering to pet abuse and grinding chicks alive and using electrified prods to bring “downer cows” to their feet.
The Humane Society’s Legislative Fund just recently released their Mid-Term Humane Scorecard reporting on legislators either leading the way or blocking pro-animal legislation, and anyone living in western Iowa’s 5th Congressional District won’t even bother to ask how King fared. Of 100 possible points (equivalent to an A), King, not surprisingly, scored not only an “F” (Zero percentage points) but was singled out by a long row of bright red Xs used to denote those who specifically took an “anti-animal” issue with one’s vote.
Don’t for a minute think this “F” will cause King to lose a minute’s sleep; he’s repeatedly stated in the past he won’t support bills aimed to prevent animal torture and abuse until Roe v. Wade is overturned. (No, I am not making this up.) And while I truly understand and respect opinions on both sides of the abortion debate, I also recognize that it doesn’t preclude the crime behind beating to death either a 5-month-old puppy or 50-year-old woman and that each issue should be addressed on its own merit.
One might think a legislator would take into consideration the values and opinions in his or her legislative district, yet King places no more value on the HSUS report card than he did with the one at Northwest Missouri State University, where he dabbled in a few courses before becoming a college drop-out. His opinions regarding whether legislators should be educated mirror those pertaining to animal abuse and even human torture; he simply does not care what other people think. As has been noted repeatedly by the press, he actually brags about having said or done something that would render a decent human being embarrassed and ashamed.
To wit, King’s intense hatred and/or disregard for any animal’s welfare made headlines yet again as recently as yesterday. In Iowa’s bitterly cold temperatures, a raccoon seeking refuge from our latest blizzard had begun scratching at King’s rural home in search of shelter. King grabbed “Desert Eagle” (his gun) and went after the raccoon, who fled. King then chased down the cold but trusting animal and shot and killed it. And, once again, instead of feeling remorseful for his actions, King used the opportunity to brag about his “kill” on his Twitter page, going so far as to use the juvenile phrase “Desert Eagle 1, Crazy Raccoon zero.”
Sioux City Journal political reporter Bret Hayworth — one of the most unbiased political journalists I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and calling a friend — wrote yesterday about the King/raccoon incident on his Politically Speaking blog. I’ve known Bret for a number of years and have long admired his ability to remain impartial while still drawing in readers with his engaging writing style and commitment to certitude vs. slant. But in between the paragraphs of his King’s raccoon conquest post, I saw lurking between the lines a human being troubled by the story about which he wrote.
It’s that kind of character that earlier this month earned Bret the Best Blog by a Newspaper award by the Iowa Newspaper Association annual convention. The blog contest wasn’t simply for political blogs, but for blogs of any subject matter for Iowa newspapers. And, at the risk of offending other newspaper bloggers whom I regularly follow, nobody deserved that award more than Bret.
There are parallels here, you see, between the work Bret does and the work our congressman is supposed to be doing and the death of a 5-month-old American Bulldog named Sire. Perhaps if Rep. King led by Bret Hayworth’s example — that being the providing of fair and equal representation to both sides of those whom one is hired or elected to represent — it’s possible Sire might still be alive today and joyously chasing after a frisbee thrown in the back yard by one of Bobby Loggins’ own children.