Man gets mad, man kicks dog, man convicted
In the aftermath of a shouting match over an hourly wage one morning last June – pitting carpenter vs. contractor – a football-sized Yorkshire terrier was kicked through the air, landing with a thud. The pooch suffered partial paralysis to its hind legs.
The carpenter, Brad Kruzick of Old Snowmass, later admitted to accidentally kicking Champs, but claimed he didn’t see the pooch and that he’d never intentionally hurt an animal.
But following more than five hours of testimony yesterday in Pitkin County Court, it took a jury of five women and one man less than an hour to find Kruzick guilty of cruelty.
The Class 1 misdemeanor “cruelty to animals” conviction carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
At issue yesterday during an all-day trial was whether Kruzick intentionally meant to harm little Champs on June 29, 1999 outside her owner’s east-side Aspen residence.
“This is a story about an innocent little dog and a very angry man,” prefaced Deputy District Attorney Katie Sullivan during opening statements.
“Champers,” as she’s affectionately called by her owner, Susan Parry, appeared in court yesterday – all six pounds of her, supported by wiry legs. She slightly favored her left rear leg.
Parry testified that she took on the contractor duties during the remodel of her home last spring and summer. Kruzick was hired on last spring for $25 an hour, and later bumped up to $30 an hour, after he was promoted to “co-foreman.”
But after city building inspectors “red-tagged” the site and shut it down for three weeks – because the builders didn’t have a permit and weren’t building up to code – Parry put Kruzick back on carpenter duty for $25 an hour. Trouble was, nobody at the building site bothered to tell Kruzick about his demotion, according to testimony.
So after receiving his paycheck for 10 days of work, at $25 an hour, Kruzick went to Parry to tell her of the bookkeeping error. And at that point, the screaming and yelling began.
Parry was infuriated with “co-foreman” Ross Mingledorf. She testified she told him to tell Kruzick of the pay cut, though on the stand, Mingledorf said she told him no such thing. Meanwhile, Kruzick, shorted $420 on his check, was perturbed with the both of them.
A heated exchang ensued, until Mingledorf asked to Kruzick to step outside the home, into the construction debris-laden front yard.
And while no witnesses yesterday testified that they actually saw Kruzick kick Champs, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find him guilty.
“I heard [Kruzick] say, `Get the f@#$ out of my way,’ and then the dog flew past me,” testified Stephen Ward, a stone mason who was working nearby at the time. “I was stunned … it appeared that he kicked her.”
Kruzick, a 27-year valley resident who works as a trim carpenter, said after the argument, he walked outside “kicking dirt clods” as he went.
“I was not consciously aware that I kicked the dog,” he said. “I simply never saw the dog. I was walking and kicking and yelling and cussing; I was mad.”
While other workers attended to Champs, Parry’s mother, 75, went after Kruzick.
“Here comes grandma with her coat over her pajamas, with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, cussing and swearing at me and carrying a shovel,” Kruzick said, explaining why he didn’t help attend to Champs. “So I got out of there.”
Kruzick later went to the police department and provided details of the incident to authorities.
“I didn’t shirk responsibility for what I had done,” he said, “I told [police] that I had accidentally booted a dog.”
Local veterinarian Dr. Scott Dolginow testified that Champs sustained injuries consistent with a kick, like someone “trying to kick a field goal from 20 yards out … it’s not the kind of injury a dog would get from falling off a couch.”
He said the 13-year-old pooch has recovered 85 percent use of her left hind leg, though at first, both of her hind legs were fully paralyzed. The dog also sustained liver damage, he said.
Kruzick is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely the afternoon of May 16.
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