In a move to obtain justice for the animals formerly in the care of Guilford County Animal Shelter, the Guilford County Sheriff’s office filed charges on November 12 against the shelter, the Winston-Salem Journal reported November 14. Sheriff BJ Barnes announced former county animal shelter director Marsha Williams was charged with five counts of Class I misdemeanor animal cruelty on Thursday. If convicted, Williams faces punishment ranging from one to 45 days on each count.
These charges come only a week after the district attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence to press charges against Williams. Sheriff Barnes had attempted to pass charges against Williams on to Davidson County where Williams is facing felony animal cruelty charges. Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson and Chief Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann stated there wasn’t enough evidence for animal cruelty charges. Financial allegations are still under investigation.
Neumann defended the decision not to bring charges against Williams stating
“You need some type of malicious act. If we had video of people kicking dogs, that would be a whole different story, but all of these complaints hinged on disagreement as to whether a dog should be euthanized right now or kept alive for some period of time. They certainly did nothing to worsen the condition of the animal.”
Dozens of examples of animal cruelty were uncovered by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. Hank Henning, chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners had thought the district attorney would at least gather enough evidence to file misdemeanor charges. Barnes said the responsibility of the condition of animals at the shelter was on Williams, as she signed off on all decisions made at the Guilford shelter.
In a November 3 report by Fox8 News, Sheriff Barnes said of the investigation into the Guilford shelter
“I will not go into particulars out of respect for those like me who love animals, but know it involves broken bones , open wounds and some missing body parts. We presented the cases to the DA and he felt while the cases were truly awful he questioned how it could be shown who was actually responsible for not taking care of these issues.”
North Carolina first lady Ann McCrory, an animal rights advocate, asked to meet with Sheriff Barnes to discuss the case and was at the press conference. McCrory stated
“This went beyond anything I’ve ever heard of in my life. It’s basically torture. It’s beyond me that the Davidson County district attorney is going to prosecute. If that person has enough to charge and make a case … why don’t we have that in Guilford County?”
On Thursday, a letter was delivered by the sheriff’s office to the district attorney explaining the charges and requesting the case be passed to Davidson since the cases involve the same defendant. The letter brought up conflict of interest concerns which stated
“I have heard citizens complain that the decision not to prosecute is a result of your and my relationship with the UAC board members. For these reasons and the fact that your office has, in its discretion, declined to prosecute these cases in Guilford County, I am requesting that you confer with the Davidson County District Attorney.”
The Guilford County District Attorney’s office had no comment and Davidson County officials declined to comment saying the decision to transfer the case would be determined solely by Henderson. Sheriff Barnes believes the law was broken concerning the Guilford County Animal Shelter, and will fight to see justice served. Fox8 News reported November 12 that Williams has a court date December 15 for the misdemeanor offenses.
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