A group of animal rights supporters talking among themselves after an animal cruelty hearing Wednesday were told to leave the Washington County Courthouse in Jonesborough by a sheriff’s officer.
The hearing was for Dustin Ricky Harrell, 21, 1178 Old Stage Road, Jonesborough. He’s charged with aggravated animal cruelty in the death of a 4-pound Yorkie named Honey.
Animal rights supporters have spoken out about Harrell’s alleged actions, and have T-shirts that say “Justice for Honey,” and “Stop Animal Abuse.”
Harrell was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Washington County Sessions Court. Through his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Phillip Ratliff, Harrell waived his case to a grand jury.
Prior to taking the waiver, Sessions Judge James Nidiffer gave everyone in the courtroom a stern warning about not causing any disruptions inside or outside the courtroom. At Harrell’s initial court appearance, there was a brief disturbance after the hearing, but Nidiffer said he would not tolerate that kind of behavior in this hearing. As a precaution, Ratiliff escorted his client out of the courthouse and to his vehicle.
At the same time, the group of animal-rights supporters were standing outside the courthouse when the officer told them the hearing they were there for was over and they needed to leave. One of the women, Regina Isenberg, told the officer that the courthouse is a public place, but the officer again told the group to leave. Isenberg said she and the others gathered had no intention of causing a problem or disruption.
Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Leighta Laitenin said the officers were simply attempting to clear the area in front of the doors leading into and out of the courthouse.
Isenberg and other animal rights supporters believe Honey’s death was particularly cruel because Harrell is accused of torturing the dog for four hours before it died. Investigators said the torture included throwing the dog down a flight of stairs multiple times, holding her head underwater several times and putting her in a clothes dryer for four minutes. Harrell is also accused of taping Honey’s mouth shut because she was crying after her leg was broken.
Harrell, who is free on a $10,000 bond, will appear in Criminal Court on Jan. 27 at 9 a.m.