Case Dropped Against Alabama Cat Ladies After Appeal

Prosecutors in Alabama have dropped their case against two women who appealed after they were convicted for feeding and trapping cats in their hometown.

Mary Alston, 61, and Beverly Roberts, 85, were arrested on June 25, 2022 after a bizarre confrontation in which four police officers pulled up in three squad cars and treated the longtime stray caretakers like hardened criminals.

The women were convicted of related charges in December and vowed to appeal the ruling, with their attorneys calling it a case of retributive and petty small town politics.

On Wednesday, Elmore County Circuit Court Judge J. Amanda Baxley accepted a motion by prosecutors to drop the case against Alston and Roberts.

It took their attorneys four months to get the body camera footage from the Wetumpka Police Department, but when they finally obtained and released it to the public in October, Wetumpka became the subject of national scorn for the way its police treated the women.

The footage showed the officers grabbing Alston by her wrists and pulling her out of her car, cuffing Roberts and berating the women for not moving fast enough when they were ordered to collect their traps and leave a wooded area on public land.

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

When Alston and Roberts expressed shock that police were hassling them, much less threatening them with arrest for managing a cat colony, one officer yelled at Roberts.

“It’s gonna get ugly if you don’t stop,” the cop said, jabbing a finger in Roberts’ face before cuffing her.

One officer told the women they were “too old to be acting this way,” and the footage captured audio of the officers laughing after one of them remarked that it was good there were no witnesses because they would have seen “a bunch of cops beatin’ up on some old ladies.”

There are no laws on the books against feeding cats in Wetumpka, so police charged the women with two misdemeanors each for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Roberts and Alston argued that they were performing a service for the town by caring for the colony of strays. They were conducting TNR (trap, neuter, return) operations in cooperation with local shelters, often at their own expense, to stop the cats from continuing to breed.

Despite the fact that TNR is widely accepted as the most humane and effective way to manage stray cat populations, Wetumpka officials stuck to their allegations that the women were exacerbating a nuisance.

Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis doubled down after his department received overwhelmingly negative feedback over the arrests, and in a December trial witnesses described an ongoing argument between Willis, Roberts and Alston over the stray cat issue.

During the trial it was revealed that it was Willis himself who called the police when he spotted Alston’s car near the wooded area. Willis claimed he did not tell the police to arrest the women, but Officer Jason Crumpton testified that he was indeed told to arrest them.

Despite that, municipal Judge Jeff Courtney — who was appointed to his position by Willis and was not elected — found Alston and Roberts guilty of all four charges.

Prosecutors did not say why they dropped the charges on Wednesday, and it was not immediately clear if Roberts and Alston will be allowed to return to caring for the cats, who live in a wooded area on public land not far from the same municipal courthouse where they were earlier convicted. PITB has reached out to the women for comment.

“We are very worried about them,” Roberts told PITB in December. “A few animal lovers have said they would help, but we are not sure this will happen. I’m not sure there is enough food available to hunt. The weather is getting colder, and they need protein.”

8 thoughts on “Case Dropped Against Alabama Cat Ladies After Appeal”

    1. Technically they can, but unlike in the municipal court, the mayor doesn’t run the show and he can’t force prosecutors to pursue the case again. It would only give more credence to the view that the whole thing has been a farce and an example of petty local politics gone amok.

      Now it’s up to the voters of Wetumpka to decide if there will be consequences for their elected leaders.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I used to watch “The Dukes of Hazard”, which was very funny. The Mayor in the real-life story sounds very much like Boss Hogg from that TV series, but Mayor Jerry Willis is not very funny at all… nasty nasty people

    Liked by 3 people

    1. They appealed the original conviction, which was in municipal court, overseen by a judge appointed by the same mayor who ordered their arrest in the first place.

      In any other court the case would have been thrown out, but the cat ladies were never gonna get a fair trial there. One of the officers testified that the mayor told him to arrest the women, and even that didn’t stop the judge from convicting them.

      So on appeal the case went to the county court, before a real judge who was not controlled by or beholden to the Wetumpka mayor. The prosecutors knew there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell they were gonna win the case, which is presumably why they dropped it. They never should have pursued it in the first place.

      It’s a victory for Roberts and Alston, but obviously the way the local government, police and courts are run in Wetumpka is not acceptable, and if this sort of thing can happen there, they certainly are not the only people who have been unfairly charged and convicted.

      Hopefully the local voters will not forget about this before the next mayoral election, but — and this is the crime journalist in me speaking — I think there should be an investigation by state or federal authorities. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen in the US, and if I were a business owner in Wetumpka, I would not be happy that the town has a reputation for an out of control mayor, police department and court. That’s enough for people to avoid going there altogether. If the mayor was so brazen and so comfortable about using the PD as his personal vendetta enforcers, and the cops and judge went along with it, then authorities at a higher level need to clean house to restore trust and show people that officials who abuse power will not get away with it.


  2. In jerk water town like Wetumpka, whatever the most prominent people in the town want, that’s what happens. I live in an similarly small town. The guy who mows my lawn had a problem with some other guy stealing his mowers. He knew exactly who did it, had tons of proof, and took him to court. The thief, however, was/is big friends with the judge, so he got off scott-free, AND was able to keep the mowers he stole.

    Liked by 1 person

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