Five Virginia Department of Corrections officers are facing misdemeanour animal cruelty charges, after one of them allegedly masturbated a "K-9" police dog while the others caught the action on video.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Melvin Boone, 40, Cheri Campbell, 35, Anthony Eldridge, 33, Kelvin Thompson, 25, and Adam R. Webb, 27, were at the at the Academy for Staff Development in Goochland County, training to become dog handlers.
Some time between 16 June and 1 August, Thompson "allegedly had some sexual contact with the animal", as prosecuting attorney Robert B. Beasley Jr. explained.
He elaborated: "Essentially, he was touching the dog's penis with his hand. The others were there filming it. That's actually how we learned of it - there's a video."
Asked why the officers had shot the mutt-fondling vid, Beasley admitted: "I don't have the slightest idea - I really don't."
The quintet of dog botherers were shopped by another corrections officer who saw the footage, and they now face a possible year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Thompson's lawyer, Terry N. Grimes, said his client "plans to plead not guilty, but admitted to fondling the animal". He explained that his client was told by the others: "If you masturbate your K-9 unit, you'll have greater control over it."*
Grimes reckons Beasley will have a hard time making the charges stick. He said: "The statute is not set up to deal with this type of thing. I don't think the legislature quite had this in mind."
Beasly, though, insisted he'd "consulted with the state veterinarian's office before filing the charges". The five perps escaped a felony rap because in Viginia this would require proof they had "carnal knowledge" of a "brute beast". This, Beasley clarified, implies intercourse.
Trial is set for 20 November, except in the case of Webb, who'll appear in court on 11 December. Their unnamed victim, "a German shepherd or shepherd mix", was unharmed in the incident, the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes. ®
* Our informant Mike Richards notes: "You know, I'm almost certain Tom Baker never said that to Leela."