justice for argus & fiona: pilotti trial day 1

argus and fiona

I now understand why reporters say sometimes what they see in a court room haunts them.  I will be haunted a long time by the crime scene photos which were shown of the slain Bernese Mountain Dog puppies Argus & Fiona.

The  scene photos (I am not a police officer so I don’t know what  to call them), were not intentionally gruesome, they were what they were. (We saw a photo of the shotgun too.  It was not one that repeats, either, which means the buck shot had to deliberately reloaded, correct?) There seemed to be some sort of quiet sidebar conversation as in jury and audience could not hear) before the audience, judge, and jury saw the photos.  I am thinking it had to do with the photos – but I don’t know for sure.

The photos – Argus lay there on the ground like he was shot in mid-flight.  He seemed to be facing away from us.  Then there was the photo of the female puppy Fiona. This photo made me cry (several things made me tear up this afternoon- so much was so hard to hear)  it was so heart and gut wrenchingly awful.  Fiona was curled in a semi fetal position staring at the camera with lifeless eyes. That is the photo I will see in my head for a long time it is so awful.

But back to the beginning.  Three papers were there: Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily Local and Brandywine News Media.  There were Argus and Fiona friends and family and supporters on one side and Gabe Pilotti had a mish mosh of people on his side.  I never saw the man in person before today so I have no way of knowing who was family and who might have been church folk. I will note that whomever they are had minor children with them, who were in the room when the photos of the shot up dogs were displayed.  Not to judge, but would you have wanted your children to see that? The smiling Pilotti from the mug shot was not present today.

Ramsey, Pilotti’s attorney referred to a “media campaign” over this issue.  He seemed to make a lot of referrals to the Justice for Argus and Fiona Facebook Page and obliquely this blog (or in my opinion that is what it was) like we were all bad people for talking about this.  Judge Nagle seemed to shut this commentary down on several occasions as being somewhat irrelevant to the case at hand.

Pilotti’s attorney was somewhat brutal with the Bocks.  But that is a defense attorney doing their job I suppose.  I do think the defense attorney was unnecessarily hard on Mary Bock in particular – asked her something like did she have remorse over the whole incident.  My personal opinion was that asking something like that was gratuitously nasty.  She was practically in tears having to relive parts of that awful day as it was.

Pilotti’s attorney seemed to make a big deal out of these neighbors of Pilotti’s that the Bocks used to be friendly with – people named Dallas and Kelley Definbaugh.  I wonder, are those the people holding Pilotti’s gun?  Anyway, it is not like it is some dirty secret.  The couples used to be friendly, more from the wives knowing each other and kids being in same sections of classes at school.  But that changed. The kids moved on into different groups and classes at school and the wives don’t hang out any more.  So what?  Do you keep in close contact with people with whom you no longer share any meaningful commonality? I don’t.

I wouldn’t know the Definbaugh people if I fell on them, and am just getting to know the Bocks, so I can only go with my gut.  I like the Bocks.  They are honorable people who experienced something so horrible.  And when you see the photos of those dead puppies from that day and hear about how they were moved in a front end loader or a tractor or something to the township building the day they were shot, well let me tell you, you get a much more clear picture of how these people have suffered.

Remember this news report?

I also did not get why Pilotti’s attorney kept bringing up a letter that Mary Bock wrote to her neighbors after her dogs were shot. I mean get real, there are tons of kids out there and tons of people with dogs.  If she wanted to tell her neighbors is that so wrong?

And Pilotti’s attorney wants to make a big deal out of this blog?  I did not drive his client to shoot those dogs.  And I am not condoning violence against his client, only like hundreds of others out there hoping for justice and a strengthening of Pennsylvania dog laws.

Today we heard from Officer Russell from West Vincent Police Department.  He was the first on the scene and apparently present later when Pilotti was interviewed by police. He seems like a totally honorable and stand up guy.  He also seems to be some sort of authority on fire arms and he spoke with some intelligence about the gun used – a 20 gauge single shot non repeating shot-gun with 9 pellet buck shot if I have it correctly.

Officer Russell recounted that fateful February day calmly with some degree of detail. He remarked that at the time (as in day of shooting) he found Pilotti’s answers “vague”. (his verbiage) . He reported that on the day of the shooting in front of the Police Chief he asked Pilotti for a written statement to assist in the investigation. He stated that Pilotti in his opinion seemed hesitant to do so, but eventually went back to his garage and sat down and compiled a “list”. Officer Russell also described seeing the dogs.  He reported that Argus took a fairly direct hit to the head and the dog’s head was “kind of blown apart.” He described Fiona’s position (that I saw in the photos) and the blood coming out of her mouth and I believe he said on her paws.  I will admit the photo of her so disturbed me that I could not get past the quasi fetal position and lifeless eyes staring at the camera.

District Attorney Tom Hogan appeared in court to watch for a while at approximately 3:45 p.m.  That made people sit up and take notice – he is a busy guy so you know he can’t audit every court proceeding.  I was thankful for his presence.

I stayed until just before the defense was going to cross-examine Officer Russell.  People in the court room said that got out of hand.  I remember before I left Officer Russell stating that they wanted to talk to Pilotti again because “something did not seem right.”

Pilotti’s attorney at one point referred to when Pilotti had shot dogs before, but West Vincent locals told me that those dogs were shot on a neighbors property because the neighbor’s animals were being mauled and is that not the truth?  So that was something different from when Argus and Fiona were shot, huh?

And I have to ask (bearing in mind my limited knowledge of buck shot) but if  Argus and Fiona were actually pursuing sheep why is it the audience and jury didn’t hear about injured sheep? Or see photos of bloodied sheep or dead sheep? I ask because as buck shot was explained today to everyone in that courtroom it sort of spreads or sprays out, right?

Watching the face of the jury all afternoon was quite interesting.  That is all I will say on that.

Court continues tomorrow at the Criminal Justice Center in Downtown West Chester, PA.  I strongly urge dog lovers to attend if possible. The Bock family and the memory of these puppies deserve our support in a peaceful way as an extended community.  It is a public proceeding and the courtroom is open, not closed. You can go to all or part of tomorrow.  Parking is not expensive in the new garage, either. You just park, go through the court screening and ask to be directed to Judge Nagle’s court (7th floor room 8 off the top of my head)

Today was deeply disturbing and very emotional. But I am glad I went. It makes me even more resolute than ever that dog laws need to change.

And here is some of the media coverage:

Trial begins for 73-year-old accused of killing neighbor’s dogs
Mari A. Schaefer, Inquirer Staff Writer 

Posted: Monday, September 9, 2013, 4:54 PM

In a case that outraged animal-rights activists and generated national  attention, a trial began Monday for a Chester County man charged with killing  his neighbor’s dogs because he believed they posed a threat to his sheep.

Gabriel Pilotti, 73, of Chester Springs, was charged with cruelty to animals  for shooting the two Bernese mountain dogs — 2-year-old Angus and 1-year-old  Fiona — after they had escaped the fenced yard of their owners, Mary and  William Bock….In his opening statement, Kevin Pierce, assistant district attorney said  Pilotti willfully and maliciously killed the two dogs in cold blood and then  left a voice message for a neighbor bragging about the incident……Argus was shot in the head as he  trotted up toward Pilotti and that Fiona was shot as she ran away. Pilotti did  not try to yell at the dogs or chase them away with a broom, he said.

“He choose to go to the most extreme measure first,” said Pierce.

Also noteworthy?  The Chester County SPCA which is currently under fire in Chester County and beyond did NOT bother to show up today.  I found that extraordinarily cowardly.  They should have put the other stuff aside and shown up for the dogs.  Good thing no one was depending on them for anything.

Here is the Daily Local:

Daily Local: Motives differ as trial starts in dog shooting case

WEST CHESTER – Gabriel Pilotti, the 73-year-old West Vincent resident on trial for shooting two dogs that wandered onto his property, was portrayed in two different lights Monday as his case opened in the Chester County Justice Center.

To the prosecutor, Pilotti was a trigger happy man who shot first and asked no questions – taking the matter of dogs in his pasture to the “most extreme measure” by killing the two dogs without provocation.

“This is a simple case of a cold blooded killing of two family pets,” Assistant District Attorney Kevin Pierce told the nine women and three men on the jury in Senior Judge Ronald Nagle’s courtroom. He said the defendant “mowed down” one of the dogs as he “moseyed” toward him, and then reloaded his shotgun and shot and killed the second, younger dog as it ran from the yard.