Case Snapshot
Case ID: 9563
Classification: Vehicular
Animal: other wildlife
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Friday, Jun 30, 2006

County: Jackson

Disposition: Convicted

Defendant/Suspect: James Carroll

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Tom Cottrell was patrolling the village of Waterloo one day in July when he saw a driver swerve to run over a muskrat.

"I didn't believe what I saw. I stopped him and I was so infuriated I called the prosecutor's office from the road," said Cottrell, recently hired as chief of police for Waterloo Township.

The result was likely the first felony in Jackson County stemming from road-kill.

Prosecutors charged James Carroll, 24, of Munith with felony animal killing.

Whether the four-year felony sticks is questionable. Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Lamp said the case could be resolved at the District Court level as early as today. A pre-exam conference was planned.

"We need to send a message that Jackson County does not tolerate any kind of cruelty to animals," Cottrell said. "This was such a barbaric act."

Still, courthouse personnel were twittering at muskrat jokes this week. For instance, "Where's the muskrat love?" was a recurring joke in a nod to the 1970s hit originally performed by America and then covered by Captain and Tennille.

Cottrell said he is an animal lover, and not an animal-rights activist. Witnessing a motorist target a defenseless animal inflamed him.

"That muskrat was only trying to get back to the pond, and was almost there when he ran over him," the chief said.

Cottrell arrested Carroll at the scene and booked him at the county jail.

"He was all humble pie but gave me some cock-and-bull story about how the animal looked injured in the road," Cottrell said. "He almost drove off the pavement to hit it."

Killing fur-bearing mammals is legal in the trapping and hunting seasons, by fair-chase methods. A vehicle is not a legal weapon at any time.

Lamp said killing an animal rises to a felony when it is "willful, malicious and without just cause."

Case Updates

Self-described animal lover James Carroll says he has four dogs and 10 chickens. But he also has a misdemeanor animal cruelty conviction on his record after pleading guilty to intentionally running over a muskrat.

Carroll, 24, originally was charged with felony animal killing after Tom Cottrell, police chief in Jackson County's Waterloo Township, said he saw the Munith resident swerve to hit the muskrat in July.

"I didn't swerve to hit it," Carroll told The Jackson Citizen Patriot for a story published Saturday. "I saw the cop before I hit the muskrat. It could have looked like I intentionally hit it, but I didn't."

Carroll said he planned to contest the felony charge at trial but decided he couldn't win if it was his word against a police chief's.

"It scares me the power police have to ruin you," Carroll said. "I am not a cruel person. I love animals."

Prosecutors dropped the felony in exchange for Carroll's guilty plea before District Judge Charles Falahee Jr., who fined him $700. Carroll's entire legal bill could approach $3,000.
Source: Detroit Free Press - Sept 9, 2006
Update posted on Nov 9, 2006 - 6:03PM 


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