Five correctional officers charged with fondling K-9
RICHMOND, Va. — Five Virginia Department of Corrections officers have been charged with animal cruelty involving the fondling of a K-9 dog and videotaping the two incidents.
All five officers were training at the Academy for Staff Development in Goochland County to become K-9 handlers. They were charged across the James River in Powhatan County where the kennel is located, at the Powhatan Correctional Center.
Facing misdemeanor animal-cruelty charges are Kelvin Thompson, 25, who works at Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham; Melvin Boone, 40, who worked at the state prison in Sussex County; Adam R. Webb, 27, and Cheri Campbell, 35, who work at Nottoway Correctional Center; and Anthony Eldridge, 33, a sergeant who worked at Nottoway.
Powhatan Commonwealth's Attorney Robert B. Beasley Jr. said Thompson "allegedly had some sexual contact with the animal." The male dog, a German shepherd or shepherd mix, was not harmed, he said.
"Essentially, he was touching the dog's penis with his hand," Beasley said. "The others were there filming it. That's actually how we learned of it -- there's a video."
A corrections employee saw the video and reported it to a superior, Beasley said.
The events occurred between June 16 and Aug. 1, according to arrest warrants. All five officers were charged Oct. 2 by summons.
Terry N. Grimes, a Roanoke attorney representing Thompson, said his client planned to plead not guilty but admitted to fondling the animal.
"I would characterize it as hazing," he said, claiming that Thompson was told by the others, "If you masturbate your K-9 unit, you'll have greater control over it."
The Department of Corrections confirmed that Eldridge and Boone no longer are employed by the state, but Thompson, Webb and Campbell are.
The Department of Corrections acknowledged that the matter had been investigated internally but declined to say whether Eldridge and Boone were terminated or left voluntarily. The department also would not say whether the others were on leave.
Grimes suggested Beasley would have a difficult time proving animal cruelty.
"The statute is not set up to deal with this type of thing. I don't think the legislature quite had this in mind," he said.
Beasley said the misdemeanor charge for each defendant was the same, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
"They were all kind of there assisting in one way or the other," he said.
In Virginia, bestiality is covered by crimes against nature, which could have resulted in a felony charge, according to state statutes. But a felony charge requires "carnal knowledge" of a "brute beast," implying intercourse, said Beasley, who added that he consulted with the state veterinarian's office before filing the charges.
Trial is set for Nov. 20 for all except Webb, who will be tried Dec. 11.
Asked if he knew why the officers videotaped the incidents, Beasley replied: "I don't have the slightest idea -- I really don't."
Copyright 2009 Richmond Times-Dispatch