Alabama Women Who Fed And Trapped Cats Found Guilty Despite National Outcry Over Their Arrest

Despite widespread condemnation at the arrest and treatment of two Alabama women who were caring for a cat colony, a town judge found the women guilty after a trial Tuesday.

Beverly Roberts, 84, and Mary Alston, 60, were arrested on June 25 after a group of police officers pulled up to a park in three vehicles and ordered the women to leave.

Exasperated at the disproportionate police response — and the non-negotiable demand that they leave a public park during daylight hours — the women protested, and things grew heated when the police told them not to question their authority.

“I’m teetering on going to jail for feeding cats?” an incredulous Alston asked the officers in footage of the arrest, which was released by attorneys representing the women after they fought to obtain it from the Wetumpka Police Department.

Shortly afterward, one of the officers lost his patience when Alston said she needed to collect her traps before leaving.

“You aren’t doin’ it fast enough and now you’re going to jail!” he said, grabbing Alston by the wrists and yanking her out of her car.

The two women had tried explaining to the police that they were caring for a colony of stray cats and that they were using their own funds to conduct trap, neuter and return services, a common activity among cat lovers who care for strays and ferals in towns across the country. In most places, the authorities work with volunteers and local rescues, understanding that TNR programs help control cat populations.

Roberts wasn’t moving fast enough for the police either, and one officer jabbed a finger at her, raising his voice.

“It’s gonna get ugly if you don’t stop!” he said.

Wetumpka cat arrests
A police officer pulls Alston from her car on June 25 before arresting her for trespassing.

Despite complaints from across the country, widespread coverage in local media and national animal-related news sites, Wetumpka Police Chief Greg Benton doubled down on his officer’s response, insisting the cats are a “nuisance” and Roberts and Alston were making the situation worse by managing the colony.

During Tuesday’s municipal trial, it became clear why Wetumpka police had acted so aggressively: They were called by Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis, who saw Alston’s parked car near the park and directly phoned the assistant chief of police.

Despite that, and despite admitting he’d had arguments with the women in the past about managing the colony, Willis told Judge Jeff Courtney he didn’t tell the police to respond and didn’t order the arrests.

“They have a right to make those decisions,” Willis said. “I don’t make those decisions for them.”

When attorney Terry Luck directly asked Willis if he’d ordered the arrest or played any part in the trespass order, Willis simply said “I did not.”

However, Officer Jason Crumpton said under oath that the assistant chief told him and the other officers to arrest the women.

After Roberts said, per the Montgomery Advertiser, that she was “not the first person in Wetumpka to feed cats,” merely the first to get caught, Courtney said the women “weren’t convicted for feeding cats.”

“I know,” Roberts said, “because that’s not illegal!”

There are no laws against managing cat colonies or feeding cats in Wetumpka, so police charged Roberts with criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct, and Alston with criminal trespassing and interfering with governmental operations, a charge tantamount to resisting arrest in many states. The charges are misdemeanors. Courtney suspended the 10-day jail sentences that come with convictions at that level and sentenced Roberts and Alston to two years’ unsupervised probation, a $100 fine each and court costs.

Attorneys for Roberts and Alston say they plan to appeal.

 

26 thoughts on “Alabama Women Who Fed And Trapped Cats Found Guilty Despite National Outcry Over Their Arrest”

      1. If they go back, it’s likely. I don’t know the particulars of the sentencing, but that’s generally how it goes. I’ve made inquiries re: what’s going to happen to the cats, and may have a follow up soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. What the community members should do is come out in droves to pick up where these ladies left off – feed, trap and neuter the abandoned kitties. Then see if the mayor wants to have hundreds of his neighbors/constituents arrested. Hopefully, there will be a groundswell of support to either recall him or make sure he isn’t re-elected.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I remember there was a summer of outrage a few years ago when the pharmaceutical company Mylan purchased the rights to the EpiPen and arbitratily hiked the price by something like 700%, which is classic rent-seeking behavior and deeply unethical particularly when it involves a medication that is absolutely necessary for some people and means the difference between life and death.

      Then it was revealed that Mylan’s CEO, Heather Bresch, is the daughter of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. Manchin and his wife, an education department official, had helped Bresch score a deal in which Mylan would exclusively sell Epipens to US school districts, and could bill Medicare and Medicaid directly when fulfilling orders for patients on public health plans. So not only was she selling Epipens at $600+ a pop when it cost her company something like $4 to make them, she scored complete exclusivity in providing them to all US government programs and school districts. She had found a way, with the aid of her senator father, to essentially print money at the expense of taxpayers and people who had no choice but to purchase the pens.

      Furthermore, it was revealed that Mylan had overbilled the federal government by tens of millions of dollars and had received tax breaks and incentives even while moving its corporate HQ overseas to avoid paying its fair share of taxes.

      Manchin, who was a frequent and loud critic of companies dodging taxes by opening nominal HQs overseas, refused to comment or take questions about his own CEO daughter doing it. In fact, he refused to answer a single question about the entire scandal and his role in it. Imagine that level of contempt for voters and constituents that a senator doesn’t even feel he owes them an explanation.

      With the intense public anger and the prominent play the story got in the press, I thought Manchin would pay the price at the polls.

      It never happened. By the time he was up for reelection more than two years later, not only had most people completely forgotten, but Manchin had managed to worm his way into a unique position of power as a moderate Democrat and the swing vote on virtually every contentious piece of legislation in a 50-50 senate. Manchin not only survived, he improved his position, he’s been lauded as a man of conscience, and to this day still hasn’t answered a question about the Mylan scandal.

      The point of this long comment is just that our system is so broken, and people are so willing to forgive political corruption and misdeeds due to ideological tribal affiliation (“He’s one of our guys!”/”We can’t let the other party get that seat!”) that elected officials can do appalling things and avoid consequences entirely.

      That may not happen here, but it’s easy to see why people would overlook something like this, either out of some misguided belief that questioning it is anti-police, or because of the mayor’s political affiliation, or because of something absurd like not liking cats or “cat ladies.” Or maybe it’ll just slip their minds by the time election year rolls around again.

      I hope there are consequences, I just know not to expect them.

      re: Your idea for hundreds to show up and do TNR. That’s a great idea. I hope the local rescues community tries something like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Please forward this information to The Real News Network, a YouTube website that covers police overreach. They ask for any stories that address this issue.
    This isn’t a cat problem; it’s a problem of police brutality in this country.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Outrageous! I sure hope the cats can be cared for under these circumstances. The cat community where I live in AL is very upset about this. Somewhere I read that two thirds of the courtroom audience were there to support the cat feeders; and now I can’t recall where I saw that. No one can fathom this reaction by police; a friend was out feeding ferals before dawn in a city near me, a policeman asked what she was doing and when she answered “Feeding cats,” he said “Sounds good,” and drove off. It doesn’t have to be adversarial. That’s of no benefit to a city, they would do better by working WITH feral cat advocates.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A cop helped feed a colony when i could not. And the cops where we did a tnr project in that precinct years ago were grateful. I ran into one ahole cop who asked us what we were doing there and why we were feeding cats. And i said because YOUR CAPTAIN SAID WE COULD.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I don’t know anything about the local politics in that town, but the whole thing stinks of elected officials throwing their weight around and forgetting that they are supposed to serve the people, not the other way around. The instant it became clear that the mayor was the one who called it in, thus the disproportionate police response, the charges should have been dropped. Especially since there are no town laws against feeding cats, trapping cats or being in a public park during normal daytime hours.

      You can’t just invent rules and then demand people follow them, even if you’re mayor. Especially if you’re mayor.

      But what makes it worse is that the police were told to arrest the women before they even arrived. They weren’t there to determine if a crime had been committed or to hand out warnings. They were told to go there and arrest women for doing TNR. They were told to find a reason to arrest the women, since there was no crime to begin with.

      If anyone else had called it in, they would have connected to dispatch, and the dispatcher would have asked what the women were supposedly doing wrong. Then if they even took the step of dispatching a unit — not three — it would be to assess the situation, not “Go down there in force, escalate the situation, be as rude as possible and arrest them.”

      So yeah. Major abuse of authority, violation of the spirit of the law, targeting people at the direction of the mayor. This is all abuse of power stuff. And the icing on the cake is that it all comes from a position of ignorance, from an elected official who thinks TNR/colony management is creating a “nuisance” rather than preventing the cat population from expanding. I would like to know what this mayor thinks is the correct way of dealing with stray cats is. Certainly it’s not ignoring them, nor can he tell police/animal control to kill them.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This particular community of “Wetumpka” was picked up by HGTV because their town wasn’t flourishing. They brought in Erin & Ben Napier who called in every designer you can imagine to bring this town back to life & be a place on the map people want to visit, as they had previously done in Laurel, MS. Now how does this work? How does this follow the narrative of being a good, kind, welcoming place to be? What a batch of f*** this is! These women were not kids & that officer definitely over reached & came in hot. There’s not a lot of people there or crime, but holy hell is it so damn boring you go after mature ladies feeding stray cats?

    Everytime I read something like this I lose a little more faith in humanity. Btw, I really hope karma kicks Joe Manchin in the crotch of life, he’s a dirt bag but these days all to often the bag guys win. Did you ever see the movie Tommy Boy? Well at the end Chris Farley who played Tommy who needed to save his business & the jobs of many in the town of Sandusky, Ohio. So Tommy goes to Detroit to see Dan Aykroyd who played Zalensky of Zalensky Auto Parts who was going to buy out the factory & the auto parts place bcuz he cared less about jobs or the town & it’s people & as Tommy begs & says all he can about how great his goods are & how he can save the town buy buying the parts not the factory. Zalensky knows and says, “What the American public doesn’t know, is what makes them the American Public” and it’s true.

    If I had not read PITB I would not know but I/we should. Those police need better training & those ladies need to finish doing what they’re doing & if they’ve got traps maybe they’re doing TNR or helping somehow so Wetumpka can have less stray or sick cat’s running or rummaging around looking for scraps. I won’t be surprised if they begin allowing people to get rid of those cats by means I can’t even fathom. This story sucks, Wetumpka should have a sanctuary & continue to be a place where people want to be but I’ve gotta sneaky suspicion they never will…

    I’m glad that all of us here, especially our Leader Buddy doesn’t agree & I wish we could bring about change because everything about this is just sad & sick & maddening & other words I’m not about to type here. Best Always to the Buddy’s, I hope whatever you celebrate it includes some good food & at least a little gift turkey for King Buddy 👑🐾🐾👋💖

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Didn’t know that about HGTV. As for the cats in Wetumpka, that’s the question. What’s the alternative? Are the elected officials just hoping the cats go away?

      Buddy has authorized me, as his servant and representative, to continue writing stories about unfair treatment received by felines and humans who care for them.

      Liked by 2 people

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