Attorney: Aspen man didn’t hurt dog
ASPEN – The attorney for an Aspen man accused of beating his dog said Thursday that a veterinarian found no evidence showing that the animal was the victim of abuse by its owner.
Jeremiah Wheeler, 35, reached a disposition with city prosecutors Wednesday that includes a guilty plea to animal cruelty and a deferred judgment of one year. The judgment is retroactive to Jan. 1, the day Aspen police cited Wheeler.
Police reports related to the incident say that the arresting officers did not see Wheeler punch his dog. However, two passers-by – a man and woman – said they witnessed Wheeler beating the canine near the Holiday House on West Hopkins Avenue.
The male complainant had told police that he and his female companion, while walking down Hopkins Avenue at approximately 6 p.m., saw a “medium-size black dog and a smaller dog in the street.” The two thought the dogs were lost, so they tried to catch them.
Wheeler then came out of his apartment and began yelling at the dogs, according to the man’s statement to police.
“He said Wheeler came out into the street and approached the black dog and was yelling at it,” the report says. “He said the dog cowered down on the street and Wheeler put his knee on the dog’s head and punched the dog twice on the head. … (The male witness) said he could not believe what he was seeing and he yelled at Wheeler. He said Wheeler told them it was none of his business, and then he said as Wheeler got to his door, he pushed the dog against the door and hit the dog two more times.”
The report says officers corroborated the man’s statement from his girlfriend and two other men who witnessed the incident. That prompted officers Forrest Barnett and Jeff Fain to arrest Wheeler on suspicion of cruelty to animals. Wheeler was visibly intoxicated at the time of the incident, the report says, and registered a 0.239 percent blood-alcohol level.
Wheeler’s attorney, Christopher A. Adelman, of Glenwood Springs, suggested that the statements in the report misportrayed what actually happened the day in question.
“Jeremiah Wheeler does not agree with the witness statements contained in the police report,” Adelman said in a prepared statement. “Mr. Wheeler entered into a deferred judgment for the certainty of the outcome.
“Due to the allegation of abuse, the day after the alleged violation Mr. Wheeler took his dog to Alpine Animal Hospital for examination. The veterinarian issued a written report stating that the dog was ‘completely healthy and happy. There is no evidence of pain or injury resulting from the discipline earlier today. Based on exam findings, relationship with client, and extensive medical history and care provided for the dog, I am certain that the dog gets attentive care and does not suffer from abuse.'”
As part of the deferred sentence, Wheeler must pay $150 in court costs. The conviction will be expunged from his record, provided he does not get arrested through the rest of the year.
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On this episode of The Drop-In: Hosts Kelsey and Rose take advantage of a snowy Monday morning at Aspen Highlands and get first tracks down Mushroom in Deep Temerity!