Case of pig head, police car hits Fan
Judge hears a tale of beer, a half-blind dog and 'a happy dance'
BY MARK HOLMBERG
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Friday, August 6, 2004
The gory case of the hog's noggin - heard yesterday in Richmond Traffic Court - turned out like sausage.
It had a little bit of everything: blood, guts, beer, a scream, humor, symbolism, righteous indignation, the Grateful Dead, a half-blind dog named Bugsy and a twist at the end.
Only intervention by the judge kept a happy dance from being entered into the court record.
"This is a first," court-appointed attorney John March said shortly before his client, clad in gray cargo pants, a striped shirt, sandals and two macrame ankle bracelets, stood before substitute General District Judge John A. Rockecharlie.
Thomas Dyson Walker, 25, was accused of dumping part of a half-cooked pig's carcass - along with associated entrails, blood and barbecue sauce - onto the front seat of a Richmond police car whose driver was attempting to break up a large alley party in the Fan on April 25. The charge: misdemeanor property damage.
"Was it a whole pig or the head of a pig?" asked Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Debra Corcoran once the trial gathered steam.
"The head of the pig," replied Richmond police officer Julissa Guillen.
"Where was the beer can?" Corcoran asked.
"In its mouth," Guillen said.
The hog's noggin sat upright in the driver's seat, its eyes staring forward. A large metal skewer protruded from its neck, Guillen testified.
She, along with several other officers, responded to the alley in the 2200 block of Floyd Avenue after police had received four or five complaints from nearby residents. The noisy party featured a live band and more than 100 celebrants when officers arrived.
It was about 11:30 p.m., and Guillen had left her windows down in her cruiser when she left it to "shut the party down."
When she returned to her car, she was horrified to see what was behind the wheel.
"Did this cause any damage to your police car?" Corcoran asked.
"I couldn't drive it for the rest of the night," Guillen testified. "It had to be sent to the garage." The front seat had to be removed in order to completely clean it, she told the judge.
She later admitted the pig's visage caused her to scream. In a court hallway, Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks asked her, "Was it a 'It's a mouse' scream or a 'Oh, hell no!' scream?" Guillen said "it was a 'Oh, hell no!' scream. I was mad!"
Witness Patrick Foster, a 48-year-old resident of that block of Floyd Avenue, testified that he clearly saw the crime as he walked his business partner's dog, a half-blind and deaf springer spaniel named Bugsy.
Walker, the defendant, "maliciously and disrespectfully dumped" the pig's head into the police car, Foster said.
"I don't want to sound like Joe Friday," Rockecharlie said in response to Foster's statement, "but just tell us the facts."
After dumping the pig's head, Foster testified, Walker "did a little dance of happiness . . . "
Corcoran asked Foster to demonstrate the happy dance, but Rockecharlie said that wouldn't be necessary.
Defense attorney March tried to unravel Foster's testimony, asking about lighting in the alley, how far he was from the defendant and whether he was relying on Walker's purplish-blue Grateful Dead T-shirt, which bore the distinctive palm print of the band's leader, the late Jerry Garcia.
March portrayed the party, which featured a Grateful Dead cover band, as an event that drew many Deadheads, more than a few of them wearing the palm print shirt.
Foster, a specialty food manufacturer, was adamant about Walker's guilt. "I don't believe it. I know it."
After the trial, Foster said he had seen Walker pick up the large platter holding the pig's head and start sneaking, cartoonlike, toward the police car. "He's not going to do it," he recalled thinking. "He's not going to do it . . . He did it!"
Corcoran argued that "a police car is an emblem of law enforcement and order" and that the pig's head represented a euphemism that harked back to the'60s that showed "the ultimate disrespect" for law enforcement.
"See what we have to put up with?" one officer whispered from the front of the court.
"It's a hate crime," whispered another.
March argued that Walker was wrongly identified because of his shirt, and he pointed out that his client is a physical therapy student at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.
Corcoran said that may be, but added, "I think the gentleman should've grown up a long time ago."
The judge said he had no doubt that the perpetrator of the crime was standing in front of him.
"You may think it's funny," Rockecharlie told Walker, who wasn't smiling.
He sentenced Walker to a year in jail, with eight months suspended, and a $2,500 fine, with $2,000 of that suspended, plus community service.
The officers in attendance later said they hoped Walker's community service would be washing police cars.
As Walker was led out of the courtroom to be taken to the City Jail, one of the officers made soft - but audible - whimpering piglike sounds, which angered March.
Outside the courtroom, March said the judge "dropped the bomb" on his client. He added that he will appeal the conviction. Walker was released later yesterday on an appeal bond.
"Excuse me," March said, "I have to talk to the officer about laughing at my client."
Corcoran said she believes Richmond police officers have to endure too much disrespect along with the danger inherent in their job. "They felt like they gained a little ground today."
The Officer should've taken suspension days for not securing the Taxpayer's Police Car.
If anything, the deft. should have been forced to pay for the cleaning of the seat and community service + Probation.
I like the idea of making him wash Police Cars.
I say that if you go to a party where everybody is drunk, and your a cop and don't lock up your car(shotgun, radios, teargas), the car is fair game And you should be investigatedfor not doing your job correctly.