It’s just that it’s not the “justice” most of you had in mind which would’ve entailed nothing short of a public lynching.
Meanwhile, since I’m sure you’ve already heard the full shooting death of Ludwig the dog story I won’t bore you by rehashing all the details here.
But in order to truly understand this tragic tale, one must have at least a passing knowledge of that stilted municipal anomaly known as Wayne, Illinois. Think of it as a Twilight Zone railroad stop that the protagonist passenger will only encounter after he falls into a deep sleep.
Rich folks are difficult proposition as it is, but when you combine money with the whole sprawling horse owner gestalt it automatically rises to a level of lunacy that’s quite difficult to comprehend. Put more simply, those residents are kinda like Sovereign Citizens without all the proselytizing. They fervently believe that government and all their silly laws apply to everyone else but them.
Put even simpler, even if you’d spot me a house and a seven-figure salary I would not live in Wayne.
But before we get to the law, please let me clearly state for the record that both Hal Phipps and his wife and Wayne Village President, Eileen Phipps, are jerks of epic proportion. I had the misfortune of dealing with Ms. Phipps early in my journalistic career, and after hundreds of politicians and over a decade later, I’ve still never encountered that vast a level of arrogance with so little evidence to back it up.
But here’s the thing! Being a jerk isn’t a criminal act. If it were, two-thirds of Wayne and half of Geneva would already be in jail.
Yes! Hal Phipps shoulda been a better neighbor – PARTICULARLY WHEN YOU’RE THE HUSBAND OF THE MAYOR! But I also understand that, like it is with most Wayne residents, Ludwig’s owner, Joe Petit, is virtually impossible to deal with.
As far as the Wayne police go, aside from issuing speeding tickets they’re generally useless. But given Ludwig’s propensity to roam, Mr. Phipps could’ve availed himself of Kane County Animal Control and/or the Sheriff’s Office long before resorting to gunfire.
Even if he wasn’t THE HUSBAND OF THE MAYOR, both entities would’ve taken his complaint seriously and acted on it. And if their intervention didn’t work, putting the issue in front of a judge would’ve been the next logical step. Trust me! I know how much it sucks to have bad neighbors, but a mandatory courtroom invitation goes a long way towards mitigating the problem.
But as bad a neighbor as Phipps was, Petit was exponentially worse, and his dog died as a direct result of his own arrogance, ego, and blatant stupidity. Considering he was already cited for a June incident in which one of his dogs bit Phipps on his property, on what fuckin’ planet do you continue to let your ill-tempered dog roam free and unsupervised?
As is par for the pet owning course, despite the fact he wasn’t there, Petit claimed his dogs were just “playing” and Phipps lied about the incident. Really? Does anyone with half a brain think a neighbor would fabricate a dog bite just so they could spend an inordinate amount of time in court?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this “my dog is always abundantly friendly” bullshit is endemic among pet owners and it’s got to stop!
One of my favorite pets was a purebred Australian cattle dog, and like most blue heelers, she was all business and didn’t care for other canines. But despite my persistent warnings to any approaching dog walker, they’d slough it off by saying, “Don’t worry! My dog is friendly!” And when Eve would inevitably start snarling and growling, they’d get mad at me! Had Eve managed to bite any of ‘em I’m sure I would’ve been sued for those vet bills, too.
But let’s finally get to the law!
Petit, once again, claimed Ludwig was only playing in the Fox River on the day Phipps shot him, but incontrovertible video evidence and eyewitness testimony paint an entirely different picture. Those dogs were clearly menacing Phipps on his property and State law makes it abundantly clear that shooting a threatening animal is an act of self-defense.
C’mon! Do I really have to explain that your dog has NO right to be on my property without my express written consent – particularly when they’re neither leashed nor supervised. So, Phipps shouldn’t have been charged and he wasn’t.
Ah! But since the rabble didn’t get to extract their required pound of flesh, now they’re insisting that Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain and State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser are in the Phipp’s back pocket.
Really? Wayne Village President may well be the lowest form of political life in Kane County conferring absolutely no political clout whatsoever.
And it would’ve been so much easier for Hain to charge Phipps and Mosser to prosecute him, too! Then all of that seething public hatred would’ve rained down on the unfortunate judge who would invariably acquit Phipps. Don’t believe me? That’s exactly what former Sheriff Don Kramer and State’s Attorney Joe McMahon would’ve done!
But instead of perpetuating the whole CYA “let the judge sort it out” bullshit, Hain and Mosser followed the letter AND spirit of the law to come to the only possible legal conclusion. I don’t know about you, but it’s truly refreshing to have a Sheriff and State’s Attorney combo who correctly apply a badly needed dose of justice system discretion.
All that said, there is a clear distinction between a criminal courtroom and the court of public opinion, and as the Phipps have recently discovered, the latter is far worse than the former. The ADHD prone public will, in time, forgive a host of “transgressions,” but shooting and killing a dog, no matter how justified, ain’t one of ‘em.
So, not only is Ms. Phipps done as Village President, but she and her husband have become pariahs in a village that loathes drawing any kind of attention to itself. And aside from barring Petit from owning as much as a goldfish, that’s the best form of justice Ludwig could get!
P.S. To my good friend Keith! Be careful what you wish for because I might just do an expose on overly tall judges!