DJ Cleared In Hog Slaughtering
JURORS CITE LACK OF EVIDENCE
By JENNIFER BARRS
TAMPA -- The hunter, Paul Lauterburg, cried, his face wet with tears as he rushed from the courtroom "thanking God, the jury and my lawyer."
So did the strident VVXTB disc jockey at the center of the controversy, his head in his hands."I'm not too much of a man not to cry after all the pressure and scrutiny," said Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, his tone hushed.
Humbled. So unlike his shock jock growl on the Roadkill Barbecue audiotape, a voice that screamed to a cheering crowd, "Andy must die!"
On Thursday, a two-woman, four-man jury ruled that Andy, a 70-pound feral hog, did not suffer a cruel death or unnecessary pain when he was castrated and killed in the 98 Rock parking lot a year ago.
Instead, they pronounced the four men involved in the radio stunt not guilty of felony animal cruelty: Lauterburg; Clem; Brent Hatley, the show's producer; and Daniel Brooks, a bystander who held the hog down.
The four were charged by the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office in the spring. Each faced prison terms, a fine on both.
Although the case outraged many in the Tampa Bay area and beyond - including animal activists, some hunters and a lot of people who called themselves "concerned citizens" - the state did not prove the men's behavior was illegal.
Even if some of the jurors considered the incident offensive.
"Sure, we talked about that, what offended us," said jury foreman Donald Currie, 35. "But there was not the evidence that allowed us to determine that this was animal cruelty."
Currie, who described himself as "a big animal person," said the state's lack of evidence made it difficult to rule against the defendants. Assistant State Attorney Darrell Dirks did not call expert witnesses during the four-day trial. He relied on edited versions of audio and videotapes of the stunt.
"You don't need an expert to tell if there has been mistreatment of an animal," he said after the verdict.
Dirks infuriated members of the defense when he based his closing arguments Thursday on emotional and biting descriptions of the unnecessary pain and stress he said the animal endured during the four hour show. "The purpose of this event was to have this animal go through hours of hell for a radio promotion," he said.
Kevin Hayslett, representing Haley, hit the roof.
"We came here to talk about animal cruelty and the state is 'Dead Pig Walking.' Here we are on the last day of the trial and we're talking about ... a pig's feelings because that's all the [prosecution] has got."
The defense called several witnesses, including a veterinarian and a biologist with expertise in feral hogs. They testified that the hog was castrated and killed in a humane manner commonly practiced by hunters.
Louise Kahle, a Tampa Bay area member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the verdict makes her worry about the level of compassion among Bay area residents.
"Either you have empathy for animals or you don't, and I would hate to think that this community thinks this is OK. I'm surprised at what is in people's hearts."
She said she took solace in the fact that the legal expenses of the four men "probably cost a helluva lot of money."
Meanwhile, producer Haley said Clem's show would never again feature a promotional stunt using an animal. "It was bad taste, absolutely," he said.
Though the matter was serious, it was inevitable the courtroom would reflect some eccentric qualities that characterize shock radio. At one point, an attorney crouched near the floor and barked like a dog. Details about some of Clem's other promotional stunts, such as "Penis Talk With Dr. Mark," made some spectators squirm.
And on Tuesday, jurors dined on deli sandwiches with ham.