International animal defense organization urges maximum sentences for former Rockland police officers

Sun, 01/10/2021 - 7:45pm

    ROCKLAND/SAN RAFAEL, CALIF. — The case of the two former Rockland police officers who were charged with allegedly beating to death several porcupines with a baton while on duty in September, continues to trigger strong reactions. One international animal rights organization has since submitted a letter signed by 10,000 people asking the Assistant District Attorney who is prosecuting the case to, “seek maximum penalties possible under the law.”

    Addison Cox and Michael Rolerson were charged with aggravated felony animal cruelty on Oct. 2. 

    According to the complaint filed in Knox County Court, the felony charge falls under the Maine Legislature Statute, Title 17, law §1031 for cruelty to animals. The court complaint states the, “men did intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause extreme physical pain to an animal; cause the death of an animal; or physically torture an animal.”  

    They were also with charged with a misdemeanor count of night hunting.

    Cox was additionally charged with a misdemeanor count of using artificial light to illuminate wild animals and Rolerson with unlawful possession of implements or aids, another misdemeanor charge.

    Reports of the incident have been shared throughout the country and also internationally by numerous news sources and social media.

    The justice for animals campaigner at In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization with an office in San Rafael, Calif., was alerted to the incident by a post seen on Facebook. The organization represents more than 250,000 supporters.

    IDA’s Communications Director Fleur Dawes said the organization posted an alert on its website Oct. 20, 2020, with a report of the story. The alert was signed by 10,652 members of the public, with a majority of the supporters from the United States and some from Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Istanbul.

    “Over 10,000 people from around the world have joined In Defense of Animals in calling for the strongest possible sentencing for the offenders for their inexcusable acts of animal cruelty,” Dawes added.

    In late December, IDA sent a letter to Sagadahoc Assistant District Attorney Michael Dumus, who is prosecuting the case.

    The letter includes a request from the supporters that, “you will seek maximum penalties possible under the law when prosecuting these cases, in addition to pushing to ensure these two are not involved with animals in the future and are mandated to undergoing psychiatric counseling.”

    In Defense of Animals also runs the Justice for Animals campaign, based in Mississippi, that works with law enforcement and local animal activists to investigate animal cruelty, rescue animals, and get justice, according to initiatives highlighted on its website.

    “We will be following this story and informing our supporters of the outcome,” Dawes said. “They want to see the strongest possible sentence for animal abuse, and are especially horrified that those responsible in this case are also charged with upholding the law. You can see that many of our supporters called for their badges to be taken when we shared this to our social media channels.” 

    The former officers appeared Jan. 7 in Knox County Unified Court for a dispositional conference, which was not open to the public. The purpose of the dispositional conference was for the defense attorneys to meet with the prosecution and a judge and discuss the merits of the evidence, the defense and any pretrial motions.

    They were initially to have appeared in court Nov. 9, but their attorneys filed an appearance on behalf of their clients to wave their appearances.

    District Attorney Natasha Irving confirmed by email that the case will be presented to the Knox County grand jury, and from there the defendants will enter a plea. The grand jury will not meet again until late March. The session scheduled for Jan. 5-6 was canceled due to COVID-19 precautions.

    Sarah Shepherd can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com