By Ed Brock
Acquitted of animal cruelty charges, former Clayton County Animal Control officer Allen Densley walked out of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center a free man on a sunny day.
Densley, 50, had been accused of beating a pit bull terrier at the Animal Control shelter in February, but Thursday morning a six-member jury found him innocent of the misdemeanor charge after a little less than two hours of deliberation. As he walked away Densley would only say that he would not try to regain the job he had done for 23 years before the incident occurred.
"I wouldn't work there again under these circumstances," he said.
Meanwhile the woman who said she saw Densley beating the pit bull with a metal pole on Feb. 12 while the dog was in a kennel at the shelter stands by her testimony.
"I saw what I said I saw," said Clayton County Humane Society Vice President Robin Rawls. "I did not mistake what I was seeing and I don't understand how the jury came to the conclusion it did."
Rawls said she's made formal complaints about other officers at the county's Animal Control, but before the day of the incident she'd made no complaints about Densley.
Rawls testified that she had gone to the shelter late in the day to check on some cats she had on hold from being killed the next day. She was in an anteroom leading to the kennel room when she heard what she thought was a dog fight, looked in the kennel room and saw Densley in the dog's cage, repeatedly hitting the dog with a "catch pole."
A catch pole is an aluminum rod with a loop of cable on one end used to catch animals.
When she asked Densley what he was doing, Rawls said, he said he was moving the dog, then he closed the dog's cage and walked away.
Densley said he was moving the dog because its aggressive nature was reducing the chances of adoption for a dog he liked in the next kennel. Both dogs were to be killed the next day. He denied hitting the dog and said he didn't know how the dog received the injuries to its head that were shown in pictures to the jury.
In her closing argument Clayton County Master Assistant Solicitor General Evelyn Sandefur said there was no valid reason for Densley to be moving the dog.
"His story from that day to this day does not make sense at all," Sandefur said, pointing to the fact that Densley walked away when Rawls confronted him. "If he was moving the dog why didn't he say ?Well, I'm moving this dog but I'm having trouble, could you help me.'"
Sandefur said Densley chose that moment to exact revenge on the dog because it had never liked him, and because he didn't think anybody was around to see him do it.
"That dog's last day on earth was his opportunity to say hey, you're going to give me some trouble, I'll give you some trouble," Sandefur said.
The dog's killing was postponed because it was needed as evidence against Densley, and it was later adopted.
Densley's attorney David Walker started his closing by quoting Franz Kafka's "The Trial" and then holding up a small copy of the United States Constitution while standing behind his client who was dressed in dark jeans, a black leather jacket and sunglasses.
"This is a shield, it protects this man, just like his motorcycle jacket and boots protect him," Walker said.
Walker went on to say witnesses should have been called to show that the dog, described by Rawls as being non-aggressive, had a different attitude toward men and Densley in particular.
After the verdict, Walker said Densley had had faith in the system.
"He's just very pleased that he's been vindicated," Walker said. "It's easier for him to go on with his life now."
Walker said Densley has been doing "anything he can pick up" for work.
Densley had another supporter in Jonesboro City Councilman Clifford "Rip" Sewell.
"I've known him for a long time," Sewell said. "He was always a good worker, always polite as he could be. He did what he was supposed to do, catch dogs."
Rawls said that the Humane Society and she were grateful for the job done by the Sandefur and the Solicitor General's Office.
"They left no stone unturned," Rawls said.
If Densley had been convicted of the misdemeanor he could faced up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.