Who Let the Dog(s) Out? Expected Trial Centers on Actions of Defendant’s Dog


Michael Wheeler

SACRAMENTO—The end of Richard Grimes’ preliminary hearing here Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court quickly became focused on a matter of semantics: was the dog let out, or did it merely go out?

In short, who let the dog(s) out? Or did anyone let the dog out? The answer to that question could be the difference between a felony or not.

Grimes faces felony charges of assault on a police officer with a firearm, exhibiting a weapon at a police officer, and animal cruelty relating to a Sept. 29, 2020, call to law enforcement by Grimes in a reported domestic violence incident.

Officers Cody Spinelli and Maranda Dean reported to Grimes’ house at 10:45 p.m. that evening, following his call to the Elk Grove Police Department reporting a domestic violence incident in a dispute with his girlfriend.

Grimes disclosed to dispatchers that he had multiple dogs trained for hunting in the residence and was advised by dispatchers to secure his dogs before officers arrived.

Spinelli expressed concern about the presence of the dogs, and his testimony focused upon their role in the proceedings. “I advised [the defendant] to secure his dog in order for us to make contact with him.”

During his initial interaction with Grimes, the snout of a dog protruded through a gap in the door, which was held ajar by Grimes. Spinelli again asked for Grimes to restrain the dog.

“When I requested he secure his dog, he then brandished a shotgun through the front door, pointed in the direction where he requested I stand.”

Spinelli commanded Grimes to drop the weapon and Grimes did so, although “not initially.” As Grimes opened the door to surrender to police, the dog, a 90-pound pitbull, got out and approached Officer Dean, who said the dog was “barking, snarling its teeth, and foaming from the mouth.”

The dog then moved toward Dean, she said, “running straight at me, snarling its teeth and barking the entire time. And once it got to the line of small bushes between the two of us, it began jumping in my direction.”

Fearing for her safety, she shot the dog in each front leg when it got within three feet of her. She later found another dog inside a vehicle in the driveway with the windows up and where the dog had no access to food or water.

Spinelli and Deputy District Attorney Toni Linarez consistently referred to the pitbull as being “released” by Grimes, but that is disputed by private defense attorney Mark Reichel.

Reichel expressed his concerns to Judge Stephen Acquisto, saying, “Objection as to the phrase ‘released,’ your honor. There’s no evidence that he held and then released the dog. There’s evidence that the door opened and the dog came out.”

Judge Acquisto overruled Reichel’s objection, noting Spinelli had used “released” in his testimony and Linarez had not introduced the phrase.

Asked if he had any evidence the dog had been “released,” Spinelli said, “I know that I asked him to secure the dog. Dispatch advised that they asked him to secure the dog. He failed to secure the dog after advising that he secure the dog that was trained to attack. The door opened, the dog came out of the residence.”

Reichel returned to this point in his closing argument.

“The officers keep saying the phrase, that the dog was ‘released.’ But it’s the case that the door is opened and the dog comes out. It doesn’t even do anything to the first officer it seems, and it’s running up to the next officer. My point is that there’s no felonious intent,” argued Reichel.

Reichel similarly focused on the details regarding Grimes’ pointing of the shotgun out of the door.

Noting that Grimes had indeed set down the weapon when asked to by police, he argued, “If someone I believe had some desire to shoot someone, they wouldn’t have set the firearm down.”

His final argument had to do with the intent of his client.

“There was no intent to assault police officers, there was no intent to violate the law and to brandish a weapon at police officers, and I just don’t think there’s enough to hold on the animal cruelty,” said Reichel.

Linarez contested Reichel’s argument as to Grimes’ intent.

“There is no requirement that the defendant intend to assault peace officers. Just that he did so willfully. And based on the testimony we heard today, we know that the defendant was aware that there were police officers who were attempting to perform their duty, at which point he pointed a shotgun out of, through the open door of his residence,” said the prosecutor.

“Throughout the interaction, the defendant continued to resist arrest and then ultimately placed his pitbull in harm’s way…at which point the officer was in a position that they had to shoot the dog, as well as the dog inside of the back of the vehicle that we heard about, with the windows up, with no food or water,” the DDA added.

Judge Acquisto ruled that he had found sufficient evidence for the case to proceed further. Representing Grimes through trial, Reichel asked for a June date for his client to receive a jury trial, and Grimes entered a preliminary plea of not guilty.

DDA Linarez suggested Monday, June 21, as a date for the trial, to which Reichel agreed. It is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. in Department 9.

Michael Wheeler is a junior at UC Davis, where he studies History and Economics. He is from Walnut Creek, California.

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