James Bright, Jr. after 3 surgeries.
Pleads Not Guilty
UPDATE 10/21/10: On Monday, Virgil C. Mitchell III pleaded not guilty to a fourth-degree felony, a charge that was not initially anticipated, and four misdemeanor charges in connection to the dog attack that hospitalized James Bright, Jr. If convicted, Mitchell faces up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine on the felony charge, and 60 days in jail and a $750 fine for each lesser charge. Between now and the trial date, January 25, Mitchell cannot harbor any dogs.
Police seized four Cane Corsos following the attack, but after sorting through witness statements, they learned that a fifth dog, named Killer,1 was also involved. Shortly after the October 5 incident, Mitchell’s girlfriend, Roxanne Peffers,2 registered Killer and the other unseized dog with the Delaware County Auditor’s Office. Initially, she registered the dogs under Mitchell’s home address, later she asked the auditor to change this to her address.
"Who Owns the Dog" Charade
The defense of course argued that the dogs belonged to Peffers, not Mitchell. Prosecutor O'Brien, however, said that Killer, at least in a "de facto" sense, belonged to Mitchell. "He took that dog to Miss Peffers within hours of the attack," O'Brien said. "We believe, in an attempt to hide that dog from the authorities." Mitchell, still only concerned about the dogs, disputed that the sixth dog even belonged to him. The judge instructed the attorneys to "work it out."
Mitchell painfully exemplifies the universal dangerous dog owner: A repeat offender, breeding more dangerous dogs out of his home; Mitchell's first actions after the attack were to hide the remaining dogs and have his girlfriend register them under her address; when that didn't work, he denied owning one dog at all; and finally, when all this courtroom nonsense blows over -- it is doubtful Mitchell believes he will be convicted -- he can get his two frankenmaulers back.
10/07/10: Repeat Offender Finally Charged
Delaware, OH - On Wednesday, The Delaware Gazette reported that four Cane Corsos, a breed that is often crossbred with pit bulls,3 so much so that the City of Aurora banned them, attacked and severely injured a man as he walked down the street. Corsos are typically over 100 lbs. Their combined weight alone grossly outmatched 67-year old James Bright, Jr. who suffered, among other things, a broken leg and "big chunks" taken from his neck and arm.
The initial Gazette article also detailed the horribly checkered past of the dogs' owner, Virgil C. Mitchell III4 who is a convicted felon, and the numerous documented violations of Mitchell's dogs by Delaware police and the Delaware County Dog Warden. What the Gazette writers possibly did not realize is that the case of Virgil C. Mitchell III is replicated in all 50 U.S. states, many with no legal provisions to criminally prosecute appalling repeat offenders like Mitchell.
Quick Rundown of Mitchell's Prior Offenses
- (2001) Complaint for dogs running loose, police investigated
- (2002) Complaint for dog running loose, officers dropped charges after Mitchell agreed to purchase state required insurance for one of the dogs, a pit bull, caught at large.
- (2004) Complaint for dogs running loose, police investigated
- (2004) Complaint for dogs running loose, police investigated
- (2005) Complaint for bite upon human being, victim declined to press charges.
- (2005) Complaint for dogs running loose and menacing. Mitchell was charged with having dogs at large.
- (2006) Complaint for dogs running loose
- (2006) Complaint for bite upon human being. Mitchell was ordered to pay victim's $2,000 medical bills and a $418 fine for court costs.
- (2006) Court ordered to not have any dogs over 20 lbs for two years due to 2006 biting incident.
- (2008) Charged with failing to register and vaccinate his dogs.
- (2009) Mitchell pleaded guilty to a felonious assault charge and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
- (2010) Complaint for bite upon human being, victim declined to press charges after Mitchell agreed to pay the victim's medical bills.
- (2010) Charged with 4 misdemeanor charges and 12 minor misdemeanor charges after the violent attack upon James Bright, Jr.
In addition to the Gazette's thorough research into Mitchell's previous offenses, the article points out two disturbing actions by Delaware county officials. One, Delaware Police Captain Bruce Pijanowski stated, "I guess we rely on people to police themselves after they get one charge." Two, Dog Warden Bob Ferguson refused to comment on the Gazette's story. It is unknown if either county department can be held liable in the brutal attack upon Bright.
In a follow up article published Thursday, the Gazette reported more disheartening news. The news, however, is true in most U.S. states and shows the terrible injustice victims of serious dog attacks face and how kicked off the "radar of importance" the justice system treats gross repeat offenders like Mitchell. In Ohio, Mitchell faces just four misdemeanor charges and a handful of minor misdemeanor charges -- at maximum, a $4,800 fine and 360 days in jail.
From a phone interview, the victim told the Gazette that he had so far received two skin grafts on his arms and that 35 clamps were used to treat his head and neck injuries. Bright said that he had been walking to a relative's house Tuesday morning to get coffee when Mitchell's dogs attacked. After the animals knocked him to the ground, they "immediately started biting me," he said. All he could think about at the time was protecting his face, which he managed to do.
Bright intends to pursue legal action against the dogs' owner. Toledo-based attorney Dale Emch, who specializes in dog bite injury, was quoted in the follow up article. He said that state law from a civil standpoint is very straightforward. Unless Mitchell can show the victim was taunting the dogs, he could be held civilly liable, according to Emch. That would include the payment of Bright's medical bills, pain and suffering and possible additional punitive damages.
2It should not surprise readers that Peffers was charged with Trafficking in Cocaine in 2008 or that Mitchell is currently under the supervision of Adult Court Services over a 2008 felonious assault conviction. Owners of dangerous dogs are often dangerous, non-law abiding people, but still have far more rights than Bright.
3"The present-day Cane Corso exists in decent numbers, but because of reckless breeding and crosses with some bull-breeds, it is getting difficult to find a true representative of the breed." (molosserdogs.com)
4In an October 13 video, Mitchell said, "People are treating him as though he killed the man." Apparently, three surgeries, including skin grafts, and the victim's ability to ever walk again is insignificant. He also said, "He wished this whole thing would just go away." But it's not going away, nor will the long recovery Bright faces.
06/24/09: Louisiana State Dog Attack Law (HB 155) Wins Final Legislative Approval
05/19/09: New Nebraska Law Focuses on Repeat Owners of Dangerous Dogs
04/10/09: Animal Control: "This is Not Just a Bite. This is a Mauling."
08/23/08: Suing Animal Control Agencies After a Dog Attack