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Judge Finds "Smoking Gun Document" in McAfee Lawsuit

The Pound and the Fury



The Pound and the Fury: With new allegations of animal mistreatment, a federal lawsuit and two investigations, there may be no better time to care about what's going on inside the Richmond Animal Shelter.

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Late Friday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Williams said in federal court that the city deliberately withheld a crucial document to Eileen McAfee's case against shelter Program Manager Selina Deale. The document was an incident report filed by a Pinkerton security guard following a March 10, 1998 incident at the shelter in which McAfee says she was ordered to leave the premises and was banned from the shelter.

The document did not surface until Feb. 9, 1999 after two rounds of depositions and other legal filings.

The judge called it a "classic smoking gun document" and found that "the city knew it was there and deep-sixed it."

In the document, security guard Barbara Jones wrote that McAfee was expelled by Senior Animal Control Officer Anthony Callahan because McAfee was not allowed in the shelter. McAfee's attorney maintained that her expulsion was a retaliatory measure by Deale, who was served with papers for McAfee's state lawsuit just days earlier. McAfee further contends that Deale banned her from the shelter because McAfee had exercised her First Amendment rights to criticize the shelter.

The four-hour hearing was held to determine if Deale had lied, influenced others to lie or obstructed justice in the case. Gerald Zerkin, McAfee's attorney, called the testimony of Deale, Barbara Jones and Anthony Callahan a "web of deceit that couldn't be unraveled absent a U.S. attorney, a grand jury and subpoenas." Zerkin suggested that Jones, who is now an animal control officer at the shelter, was hired by Deale as a reward for her testimony, in which she was largely unable to recall the incident. Also germane to the plaintiff's assertion that Deale obstructed justice by trying to influence witnesses was the testimony of Michelle Stivason, a former employee of Zerkin's, who testified that she overheard a conversation between Deale and former Acting City Manager Connie Bawcum after Bawcum's deposition. Stivason testified that she heard Deale tell Bawcum "it was best if they said they didn't remember anything."

Williams will rule on those issues to determine what, if any, sanctions are to be imposed upon Deale's case as it moves forward. He also referred the case to a magistrate for a settlement

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