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.
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.”