I am revisiting a story I wrote on June 23rd about a boy who tortured and killed a domestic cat in Clinton, Iowa (opens a new window). The boy is Jonathan Trude. He is 12-years-of-age. His parents say that he is mentally disturbed. His father, Richard says he has ADHD, is bipolar, psychotic and a narcissist. We don’t know if these conditions have been diagnosed by qualified practitioners and we don’t know if these conditions cause a boy to want to hurt animals. I don’t see a direct connection. Why should they be an excuse for animal cruelty?
The owner of the cat that he tortured and killed, Skylar Golan, says there is nothing wrong with the boy and he learned his abusive behaviour from his parents.
The question is whether the state can prosecute Jonathan for the crime of animal cruelty under the state’s animal welfare laws (as I understand it: Chapter 717B (Injuries to Animals other than Livestock)).
I am told by Skylar that the police have told her that they won’t prosecute him because of his age and because he ‘went to a psych ward’. In other words because he is below the age of criminal responsibility and mentally ill.
“They [the police] initially said they would press animal cruelty and burglary. And we would have to do assault separate. Then we were told by the court the assault would be included all together. And just yesterday my mom called numerous times and sent emails and finally got a call back from the sherriff saying he would never be taken to court because of his age and that he went to a psych ward…”
To confirm: the reason as given by the police is that Jonathan is below the age of criminal responsibility and that he is mentally unfit to be tried.
After a good 30 minutes difficult research (this information was hard to find) I have come to the conclusion that there is no specified age of criminal responsibility in Iowa and therefore the fact he is 12-years-of-age is not a barrier to prosecuting him.
“In Iowa: No statute specifies the youngest age at which a juvenile can be adjudicated delinquent;” (IOWA NJDC National Juvenile Defender Center).
Therefore the police, on my reckoning, have this wrong. As for his mental health. Skylar says he is not mentally ill but simply an unpleasant individual who has in the past abused animals.
My conclusion is that the police don’t want to get involved because they don’t see the crime as sufficiently serious and indeed have blamed Skylar for not looking after her cat properly!
“… they just said “maybe you should keep an eye on your animals and property and it won’t happen..”
Jonathan Trude has been let off as have his parents. Is this right? Perhaps there are complexities with respect to the boy’s mental health which present a barrier to a successful prosecution. But the cat’s owner is clear, she wants some sort of closure and punishment.
The comments discuss a possible civil action. For financial reasons the action would have to be ‘in person’ (without appointing a lawyer) and the court fee would be quite cheap, perhaps around $100. It should be a small claims action. I am a believer is seeking justice. This case does not have closure. There is a boy free to wander around the neighbourhood who allegedly likes to hurt animals. The community is subject to this danger. It should not be dismissed as unmanageable and the cat’s owner should not be seen by the police as contributing to the problem because she has done nothing wrong.
An alternative way forward to seek closure would be to formally ask Jonathan’s parents to pay compensation which could be set at around $1,500 (vet bills, value of cat and emotional distress).