Nico Dauphine Found Guilty of Attempted Animal Cruelty

The H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse, where the Superior Court of the District of Columbia is located. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and AgnosticPreachersKid.

After more than five months of delays, Nico Dauphine was, this afternoon in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, found guilty of attempted animal cruelty. (Sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 21st.)

Apparently, even “super lawyer” Billy Martin—brought in at the last minute—couldn’t save Dauphine. While the security camera footage (at least the portions released to the public via Fox 5 News) didn’t prove to be the smoking gun many expected, it was, it seems, sufficiently damning.

That, and Dauphine’s own testimony—which, I’m told, the judge simply didn’t buy. (Perhaps she was no more convincing in court—as, I’m told, she tried repeatedly to distance herself from her own very public statements opposing TNR—than she was during her infamous “Apocalypse Meow” presentation.)

According to a story in the Washington Post (published shortly after I had this post online), “Senior Judge Truman A. Morrison III said it was the video, along with Dauphine’s testimony, that led him to believe she had ‘motive and opportunity.’”

He specifically pointed to her repeated denials of her writings. “Her inability and unwillingness to own up to her own professional writings as her own undermined her credibility,” Morrison said.

Back in the News
While I’m pleased with the verdict, I think the fact that she’s been found guilty is actually less important than the fact that she didn’t get off the hook, if that makes any sense. This was a story that barely made the news when it first broke, and has been all but forgotten in the intervening months. A guilty verdict—regardless of the particulars—will, I hope, get the media interested again.

And, with any luck, asking some hard questions for a change.

Starting with: How in the hell was Nico Dauphine hired by the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center in the first place? They had to know her reputation for both misreading and misrepresenting the science in her efforts to vilify free-roaming cats. Yet, her supervisors—including Peter Marra, of course—had Dauphine studying the hunting habits of pet cats.

As I understand it, hers is a highly competitive fellowship—surely there were other candidates who would have been a better fit. (Or maybe not—again, her reputation preceded her. If Dauphine was in fact the best fit, though, what does that say about the Migratory Bird Center and the National Zoo?)

Reactions
It’s going to be interesting to see how others react to today’s verdict.

Last I checked, The Wildlife Society’s Michael Hutchins hasn’t even mentioned Dauphine’s arrest on his blog—this, despite her extensive contribution to The Wildlife Professional (published by TWS) this past spring, when the magazine was devoted to “The Impact of Free Ranging Cats.” Nor have I seen ABC make any kind of statement. Will they remove Dauphine’s Impacts of Free-ranging Domestic Cats (Felis catus) on birds in the United States from the ABC website now that she’s been convicted, or does ABC still stand by her so-called research?

More interesting will be the reaction from those whose cats were lost—or nearly lost—as a result of Dauphine’s “community service” during her days in Athens. I don’t know that today’s decision will feel much like justice for them, though perhaps it’s a start.

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