Judy Brezina Camp pointed to a photo used in her trial last week. Photo by Ann McCreary

Judy Brezina Camp pointed to a photo used in her trial last week. Photo by Ann McCreary

Camp convicted of obstructing a law officer

By Ann McCreary

Judy Brezina Camp of Carlton has been found not guilty of stealing a pet and lying to a police officer, but was convicted of obstructing a law enforcement officer by a jury in Okanogan County District Court last week.

Camp admitted taking a dog home last December after she found the animal chained outside in sub-zero weather at a residence north of Twisp. Following a one-day trial on Thursday (March 27), a six-person jury found her not guilty on two of the three charges against her, including stealing a pet.

Juanita Magruder of Carlton, the dog’s owner, testified that the dog was kept chained outside on property belonging to a friend, who lives 15 miles from the Magruder home. Magruder said the friend was often gone and the dog, a 7-year-old blue heeler named Duke, had been kept there for “two-and-a-half or three years” to keep people off the property.

Magruder said Duke was checked daily and given food and water by herself or her husband or son. She said the dog “wasn’t an inside dog” and was not housebroken.

Methow Valley residents called as defense witnesses testified that the dog was kept confined on a short chain attached to a flatbed trailer on the property, described by some witnesses as a “junk yard,” at 616 Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road. They said the dog was exposed to harsh weather and the dog’s food and water were sometimes frozen or the bowls were tipped over.


Afraid for dog

Camp said she took Duke to her home on the evening of Friday, Dec. 6, after reading about “a dog in distress” on a local Internet bulletin board.

Photos of the location the dog was originally found were used during the trial. Here Judy Brezina Camp points to one displayed during her testimony. Photo by Ann McCreary

Photos of the location the dog was originally found were used during the trial. Here Judy Brezina Camp points to one displayed during her testimony. Photo by Ann McCreary

Camp said she decided to get the dog because “I was afraid it would freeze.” The thermometer at her home read − 5 degrees when she left her house and drove to the property at about 9:30 p.m., Camp said. She said she found the dog chained to the trailer, which it could crawl under, surrounded by feces.

The dog was “timid, frightened,” Camp said. She testified that her intention was to keep the dog over the weekend and to try to locate the dog’s owner after taking it to Valley Veterinary Clinic for a checkup on the following Monday, Dec. 9.

Defense attorney Ken Miller showed the jury several photographs taken by Camp of the area where the dog was kept chained, including bowls with frozen food and water.

Charges that Camp made false or misleading statements to a public servant and obstructed a law enforcement officer stemmed from an encounter between Camp and Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Yarnell on Dec. 9 at the veterinary clinic.

Yarnell, the sheriff’s animal control officer, testified that the dog was reported missing by the Magruders and he alerted local veterinarians about the apparent theft. He said he was subsequently informed that a dog matching the description of the missing animal was being brought to Valley Veterinary Clinic on Dec. 9.

Yarnell said he found Camp in an examination room with the dog and veterinarian Dan DeWeert, and said to Camp, “You’ve found the stolen dog.” Yarnell said he knew the dog because he had checked on it on previous occasions after receiving complaints about its condition, and had found “nothing criminal” about the way the dog was being treated.

Yarnell testified he had received a message on the evening of Dec. 6, the night Camp took the dog, from another Methow Valley resident who was concerned about the dog.

Camp testified that when Yarnell came into the exam room he was “friendly, smiling,” and she thought he was speaking to her in a joking manner, so she responded similarly, telling him the dog was hers.

She testified that Yarnell then told DeWeert to leave the room and the deputy became “cold … angry,” and the two argued when Camp said she would not turn the dog over to Yarnell.

Camp said she left the exam room because she felt uneasy. While Yarnell was in a different room talking to the veterinarian, Camp took the dog from the clinic to her car and was putting it in the passenger side when Yarnell followed her out and told her to let him take the dog.

As Camp was trying to put the dog into the car, Yarnell reached past her and, grasping the dog’s collar, tried to remove it. A scuffle occurred during which Camp “elbowed me in the chest,” Yarnell testified. At that point Yarnell told Camp she had assaulted him and placed her under arrest.


Not a pet?

In closing statements Miller, Camp’s attorney, said Camp should be found not guilty on the charge of taking a pet because Duke was not housebroken and was kept outside on property 15 miles away from the owner’s home.

“You’re entitled to conclude this wasn’t a pet,” Miller said.

Miller also argued that Camp should be found not guilty on the charge making false or misleading statements to a public servant because Yarnell testified he didn’t rely on Camp’s statement that the dog was hers as part of his investigation  “because he didn’t believe it.”

Sentencing on the charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer will take place on April 11.

The charge is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

The trial was presided over by pro-tem Judge Thomas Warren of Chelan County. Brendan Platter, Okanogan County deputy prosecuting attorney, was the prosecutor.

Camp said Monday (March 31) that she plans to work, along with some other valley residents, to change laws regarding animal neglect and cruelty.

“I would like better, more clearly defined guidelines on what constitutes shelter, food and water,” Camp told the News. “And I would really like to work on getting a shelter” in the valley, she added.

Camp said she refused to accept plea agreements prior to the trial because she felt she did the “right thing” in taking the dog in from the cold.

The dog, which she calls “Tank,” still lives with her. She paid the Magruders $500 for the dog, which she raised through donations, on the day she took the dog to the vet.

Tank is gradually getting accustomed to being allowed inside Camp’s home, she said. “He’s almost house-trained. For a long time when I’d ask him to come inside, he’d stop at the door. Now he comes in,” she said.

“He has the manners of a musk ox … and eats laundry baskets, but he’s the most endearing dog I have ever owned.”