Silt dog owner in court again
November 15, 2006
RIFLE – The woman accused of owning a vicious dog, after her pit bull allegedly mauled an elderly Silt woman in September, pleaded not guilty on one of two charges in her first court appearance Wednesday morning.Julia Dawn Sullivan, 32, of Silt, appeared at the Garfield County Courthouse in Rifle and pleaded not guilty to the charge of ownership of a dangerous dog inflicting bodily injury. She declined the district attorney’s offer of a deferred judgment on the charge, which would have resulted in fines and restitution.Sullivan entered a guilty plea to a dog licensing violation.After accepting Sullivan’s not guilty plea to the more serious charge of owning a dangerous dog, Judge Jason Javanovich asked whether she wanted a judge or jury trial.Javanovich explained that in a judge trial, he would wear two different hats – listening to the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses and deciding what the facts are. He would also act as a judge of the law and determine sentencing if she was found guilty.In a jury trial, the jurors would be the judges of the facts, although the judge would still determine the law and impose sentencing if a guilty verdict was rendered.Sullivan requested a judge trial.The victim, Judy McGruder, 74, of Silt, attended Wednesday morning’s hearing.”I’m not happy,” she said briefly after hearing Sullivan’s plea. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”McGruder was attacked by Sullivan’s 3-year-old pit bull, Butterbean, on Sept. 22. McGruder had been going to pick up her grandson and ended up at Sullivan’s residence by mistake. After speaking with a man who answered the door, McGruder was on her way back to her car when the dog attacked her several times, biting her on the left arm, in the leg and the backside as well as the head. She was hospitalized for several days afterwards.Butterbean has since been euthanized, Sullivan said.Shortly after the incident, Sullivan wrote a letter to the Post Independent, apologizing for the incident.”I believe there are no second chances for a dog that behaves like this,” she said in the letter. “I have relinquished ownership to the authorities with full knowledge that he will be put down … I didn’t want anything to do with the dog once I heard what had happened. The bottom line is, he will not be able to do this to anyone else.”She added, “My heart goes out to Ms. Judy McGruder. A mere apology only diminishes what I feel for her.”However, Sullivan said she entered the not guilty plea because she had no prior knowledge of the dog exhibiting aggressive behavior. She had owned Butterbean since he was a puppy.”The dog didn’t have any history of being violent,” Sullivan said after the hearing.The hearing was continued until Wednesday, Nov. 22, to give Sullivan time to decide if she wants to be represented by an attorney.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.