Justice for Trooper
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Trooper is one of the defenseless victims of senseless animal cruelty for whom Missouri K9 Friends has been fighting and seeking justice. Unfortunately, we have cause for grave concern that Trooper’s abuser is not being forced to answer for his crimes nor is Trooper receiving his full measure of justice. Too often crimes against animals are ignored and go unpunished. We fear that may be the case here. As such, Missouri K9 Friends, its supporters, and its volunteers – all of whom have invested so much in Trooper and his recovery and seeing that justice is served in his case – respectfully call upon you to review Trooper’s case, the prosecution (or lack thereof) of Trooper’s abuser, and appoint an independent special prosecutor to the case of State vs Jason E. Hampton.
On February 19, 2018, Trooper was found on the side of Possum Hollow Road in Farmington, emaciated, unable to walk with skin rotting on his body (photographs are enclosed). Missouri K9 Friends was contacted about Trooper and his condition. We immediately responded to that call and rushed him to Veterinary Specialty Services (VSS) in Manchester. Fortunately, due to overwhelming support and donations from the worldwide community, the efforts of the dedicated veterinary staff at VSS and Trooper’s spirit, Trooper survived.
Missouri K9 Friends, led by Mandy Ryan, began its own investigation into what happened to Trooper. Several witnesses suggested that we should contact Jason Hampton, a neighbor of Trooper’s owner, and that if anyone knew anything around Farmington, it would be Mr. Hampton. On or about February 23, 2018, Mandy called Mr. Hampton to ask if he knew anything about Trooper. During that conversation Mr. Hampton confessed that he shot Trooper, paralyzing him, and then struck him repeatedly on the head with a hammer. After shooting and savagely beating Trooper, Mr. Hampton then dumped Trooper and left him to die alone in the field on Possum Hollow Road.
Based on these admissions, Mandy, who was familiar with law enforcement procedures and investigations through her experience as an animal control officer, contacted the St. Francois County Sherriff’s Department that same day. On or around February 25, 2018, Deputy Zerick Hahn questioned Mr. Hampton and Mr. Hampton repeated the same confession to Deputy Hahn as he had previously made to Mandy. Based on Mr. Hampton’s confession and the brutal nature of the crime, St. Francois County Prosecutor Jerrod Mahurin charged Mr. Hampton with felony animal cruelty, pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 578.012.
By the time of the filing of charges against Mr. Hampton, Trooper’s story had already received extensive coverage by the media and press. With the filing of charges, the media and press once again covered Trooper’s story. Prosecutor Mahurin had made it clear to his constituents, Missouri K9 Friends, and the press that he would not offer or accept any plea deal for anything lessor than an admission of guilt to the felony charge.
As the result of the November, 2018 election, Prosecutor Mahurin lost his position and incoming Prosecuting Attorney Melissa Gilliam took over Trooper’s case. On October 2, 2019 Prosecutor Gilliam voluntarily and inexplicably recused herself from Trooper’s case and the case was transferred to Madison County and assigned to Special Prosecuting Attorney Medford Dwight Robbins. Both previous prosecuting attorneys communicated with us their intentions to seek justice in this case. However, upon transfer to Special Prosecuting Attorney Robbins all communication with us ended. After the most recent court hearing, on December 19, 2019, I was finally able to speak to Prosecutor Robbins’ assistant who led me to believe that Prosecutor Robbins intends to dismiss all charges against Mr. Hampton.
Missouri K9 Friends has grave concerns about the manner in which Prosecutor Robbins is handling Trooper’s case and will not stand idly by while we see yet another case of animal abuse downplayed and swept under the rug because the prosecuting attorney believes that Trooper is merely an animal.
Among our specific concerns are the following:
1. The two previous prosecuting attorneys, after reviewing the evidence, were confident that a felony had occurred and were committed to the diligent prosecution of Trooper’s abuser. In watching the case unfold, we were confident that these two previous prosecutor’s had thoroughly reviewed the evidence, including Mr. Hampton’s identical admissions of guilt made to two different individuals. In contrast, Prosecutor Robbins appears to have only spoken to Mr. Hampton and Mr. Hampton’s attorney. To our knowledge, he has not spoken with or interviewed Mandy Ryan, a key witness in this matter, or made any attempts to contact VSS regarding Trooper’s injuries, possible physical evidence, or providing testimony against Mr. Hampton.
2. We completely understand, as has been suggested to us, that successfully prosecuting Mr. Hampton for the initial shooting of Trooper might be difficult and that he might be able to offer some viable affirmative defenses against charges based solely on that initial shooting. Unlike the two previous prosecutors assigned to the case, Prosecutor Robbins seems focused solely on this aspect of the incident and appears to ignore everything that occurred after. The initial shooting was not the only criminal act committed by Mr. Hampton. Regardless of any possible affirmative defenses to the initial shooting, the heinous act of repeatedly striking a paralyzed and defenseless dog in the head with a hammer and then dumping him to suffer on the side of the road is indefensible. Mr. Hampton had rendered Trooper defenseless after shooting him. Any possible argument based on claims of defense of self or property evaporated and Mr. Hampton’s subsequent actions were unnecessary and criminal.
3. The current prosecutor fails to understand and/or purposefully ignores the fact that Mr. Hampton’s act of attempting to hide Trooper after his crime is clearly indicative of a consciousness of guilt. If Mr. Hampton believed that his shooting of Trooper was justified, he should have simply called the local police to report the incident. Instead, however, he beat a defenseless Trooper in the head with a hammer and then attempted to hide the evidence of his crime in a field. The acts of repeatedly hitting a defenseless animal with a hammer and then dumping him to die alone in a field are those of a cruel and dangerous person. Prosecutor Mahurin appears to have understood this and, as such, sought an enhancement of the charges under the torture and mutilation provisions of the cruelty statute. Unfortunately, Prosecutor Robbins does not appear to understand the truly heinous nature of Mr. Hampton and his crimes and/or much interest in zealously prosecuting this case.
For some, Trooper may be just an “animal” and, as such, may believe that Mr. Hampton’s crime was “not that bad” or not worthy of a prosecutor’s time and effort. However, this is not the law of the State of Missouri nor a legitimate expression of our social values. Too many times, crimes against animals go under-punished and even unpunished. To allow that to happen here – particularly in light of the brutality and heinous nature of Mr. Hampton’s crime – would serve only to send the message that the state does not care about crimes against animals and that we, as citizens, need not care and are free to neglect, mistreat, and abuse animals with impunity. We ask that you please not allow Trooper’s suffering to go unpunished and take any actions that you can to ensure that our laws are zealously enforced and that Mr. Hampton has to answer for his crimes.
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