The Harris County District Attorney's Office has charged a BARC volunteer for filing a false police report regarding animal abuse he said he heard while at the city's animal control facility.
Shelby Kibodeaux was charged July 1 with the class B misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a fine up to $2,000.
After speaking with Kibodeaux this week, and being blown off by just about everyone else, Hair Balls's articulate, cogent and measured response to this situation is: What the fuck?!
Kibodeaux told us that he went to BARC January 26 to fill out notification forms for a puppy he had found, when "I hear -- I didn't see anything -- I heard a door fling open, and obviously there was a dog, a man and a woman with a very odd accent. The dog was obviously being manhandled, because it didn't want to come out of where it was, because I could hear it being choked, kind of like. And they were jerking on it, and the lady was screaming to the guy...'Shut up, shut up!'...At that point, I was just about to bust out crying."
Kibodeaux says he split as fast as possible and e-mailed a seven-page screed to just about everyone he knew, including folks at Houston's Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the grade-A, world-renowned, Nobel Prize-winning, light-unto-the-nations Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care.
And then, this being Houston, things got fucked up.
Kibodeaux says he was eventually contacted by an investigator with the Houston Police Department's Office of Inspector General. And according to the charging document, Kibodeaux lied to officer D. Wright who was "conducting an investigation of cruelty to animals, and (Kibodeaux's) statement was material to that investigation."
See, the OIG had already been looking into some rotten stuff at BARC -- things like the chief veterinarian allowing another vet to dispense controlled substances without proper state certification, violations that earned both vets fines from the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners June 11. (Kibodeaux told us his complaint involved the "shrieking" of a woman with an unusual accent. Chief Veterinarian Eunice Ohashiegbula-Iwunze was born in Nigeria and speaks with an accent. However, Kibodeaux says he never named her in his complaint, because he never saw anything; he only allegedly heard something.)
We don't know if Wright was part of the OIG's investigation into those violations, or if he was investigating other BARC matters, because he wouldn't talk to us. In fact, even though Kibodeaux has been charged and is due in court August 10, Hair Balls was told this morning that the investigation into his allegedly false report is still ongoing. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we repeat: What the fuck?! Well, at least we know one thing is true: Do not get charged with a misdemeanor in this town, because The Man will work overtime to make sure your ass pays for it.
Donna Hawkins, spokeswoman for the DA's office, said that because "probable cause" information has not been publicly released, she could not discuss the case, but HPD spokesman John Cannon told us that the investigator's notes from the case state that a review of videotape footage and witness questioning did not support Kibodeaux's story.
J.J. Rivera, one of Kibodeaux's lawyers, says that it's not even accurate to call Kibodeaux's story a formal police complaint. Rivera says Kibodeaux was solicited by the OIG's office after he complained to city officials -- hardly the same as walking straight into the police station and accusing someone, by name, of a crime.
"In my opinion, he didn't file any police report," Rivera tells Hair Balls. "He didn't go to the police. He just sent...an e-mail to city officials saying, 'This is what's going on.'"
But our question is: How does a complaint go from being unsupported by evidence to being an outright lie?
And our other question is: We're told that the OIG has asked at least two other people to give statements about incidents they've allegedly witnessed at BARC. Based on what happened to Kibodeaux, who in their right mind would step up to that plate without videotaped evidence and a signed confession from the perpetrator? For that matter, why on Earth would anyone in Houston run to the cops with an animal-cruelty complaint?
These are questions we had for Belinda Smith, who prosecutes animal cruelty cases for the DA, but she hasn't gotten back to us. Hopefully she will.
We're also waiting to hear from someone at BARC about whether Health and Human Services conducted its own investigation, and what that investigation may have entailed.
Until someone can fill us in, this thing just looks downright weird. And it may be that Shelby Kibodeaux is full of baloney and well-deserving of this charge....we just don't see right now how even charging him makes sense.
Let's look at a few things:
1.) BARC is legendary for doing everything it can to silence volunteers and employees who complain. If you are a police investigator questioning BARC employees, this might be an important thing to know, because it might clue you in to the fact that freedom of speech may not exist at BARC, and a city employee or shelter volunteer might be too afraid to tell you anything other than what will keep them in BARC's good graces.
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2.) Kibodeaux has been a weekend BARC volunteer for years, and as far as we can tell, he doesn't have a history of filing specious complaints. However, Ohashiegbula-Iwunze has a history of accidentally killing dogs while under the influence of painkillers.
Now, Kibodeaux didn't mention "Dr. O" by name, but when it's on record that the highest-ranking vet at an animal shelter has a disciplinary record in two states, it might be your first clue that the joint, well, kind of blows. And here are a few other clues: the shelter has a history of letting puppies wash down drains; of hiring morons of the sort who let dogs bake to death in animal-control trucks; of hiring morons who stuff a bunch of fighting birds into a cage, where they suffocate to death; of keeping animals in un-air-conditioned rooms; of not vaccinating dogs who are adopted out and promptly die ugly, disgusting, painful deaths from distemper. In other words, it's a shelter with a history of animal cruelty.
So when you're an investigator, that's something you might want to keep in mind. You also might want to keep in mind that, when a city department has a history like that, its main interest is to cover its ass -- not to root out the truth and solve problems. So therefore, when you're checking into allegations of animal cruelty in a city-run shelter, you're stepping into a real quagmire.
Again: we're not saying Kibodeaux is 100-percent bullshit-free. That remains to be seen. But after decades of needless animal suffering, it's more than clear that BARC has bullshit to spare.