CORUNNA — Thirty-fifth Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart declined the request by attorneys for a Byron man to dismiss a felony charge of torturing/killing a cat that he claimed had been killing his chickens at a hearing Monday morning.
Jeff Whalen is currently charged with the single felony count for killing his neighbor’s cat in December 2021. He says the cat was killing his chickens, and that he had trapped it once before calling Shiawassee County Animal Control, which returned the cat to its owner. Whalen then trapped the animal a second time after it allegedly continued its assaults on his poultry, and shot it once, immediately killing it.
At Monday’s hearing, Assistant Public Defender John Gorniak asked Stewart to throw out the case on the grounds that Whalen was protecting his livestock. Gorniak pointed to a Shiawassee County ordnance that allows property owners to kill animals that are killing their livestock. He also cited Michigan’s “large carnivore” law.
In a bizarre turn, Gorniak compared his client’s situation to a hypothetical situation in which Israel was being attacked by Iran.
“There’s countries in the world, in the Middle East, God bless Israel,” Gorniak said. “The state of Israel does not wait until Iran has a nuclear missile in the air…”
“What does that have to with Mr. Whalen killing a cat that’s in a trap?” Stewart asked.
“It’s an analogy, I’m trying to present an analogy to the court,” Gorniak replied. “You don’t have to wait until somebody has a bomb or missile in the air. You can go blow up their nuclear enrichment facilities 10 years ahead of that. Much of the world views that as a valid self defense.”
In the end, Stewart ruled that because the cat was domesticated, it did not qualify as a “large carnivore” as described in state statutes.
Gorniak also took issue with the prosecutor’s office not filing charges against Whalen’s neighbor for trespassing. “That would have been one way to resolve this case. Instead, they charged Mr. Whalen.”
Following Stewart’s ruling, Whalen asked to speak briefly, which Stewart allowed him to do.
“During this case, the I guess victim, had threatened to kill my children and turn them into dog food,” Whalen said. “I called 911 on that. Michigan State Police came out and took a report. There was nothing done about that…”
Stewart then cut Whalen off, and told him that a jury would decide whether he was guilty of torturing/killing the cat.
“That’s the only thing before the court,” Stewart said. “That’s it.”
The next hearing in the case is a plea hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday. If no agreement is reached, Whalen’s trial will begin March 7.
According to court records, Whalen was charged with a single felony count of killing/torturing animals in August 2022, and was arraigned in October 2022. He pleaded not guilty and the Shiawassee County Public Defender’s office was appointed as legal counsel.
Horrible that Mr. Whalen's request was denied. The cat owner has responsibilities in this as well. Is this all our courts have to concentrate on right now? Sad for many reasons, truly.
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