MAN ARRESTED FOR SAVING A STRAY CHICKEN
You will find this tale preposterous and bordering on pure insanity, but I swear to you that the events I am about to relay actually happened in the United States of America, State of Oregon, County of Josephine and not in Saddam's Iraq.
Nick Gombos is heading home from his gym workout at 10:00 PM, and he stops by the small closed Rayís Food Market in Murphy, Oregon on his way home to Williams, to pick up a copy of the free weekly "Nickel" classified ads.
He sees this shivering chicken huddled in an open crate next to the Nickel magazine stand. The chicken looks abandoned and lonely, so Nick, the animal lover, takes pitty on the chicken, picks her up, and takes her home and safety.
For all Nick knows, the chicken is abandoned, on free range. The chicken is not in a closed or even locked pen. For all Nick knows, the chicken found a spot to rest with minimal protection for the night. Dogs, cats, or any other predator might have scented her out in that open crate. There is a nameplate over the open fruit crate, designated "Speckles".
Nick builds a chicken pen at home for his rescued bird, and he goes out to buy two other chickens to keep her company. He feeds her grain and feels like he's done something good.
Nick tells a neighbor how he got the bird. The neighbor tells Nick the bird is a "regular" in the parking lot of Ray's Foods, getting scraps from what was thrown to her by patrons and store employees.
Nick calls Ray's Foods and tells an employee not to worry about the chicken. She's well taken care of and provided for now. The employee tells Nick that's just fine.
The next day, Nick gets a call from a different and angry Ray's Food employee, accusing him of stealing the chicken, and demanding the hen be returned.
Now you have to consider the environment this chicken was living in. She was living on scrap food tossed to her irregularly by passersbys, and she was dodging parking cars all day in the parking lot of this small grocery store. The chicken was not held in a pen, and was allowed to freely wander around anywhere it wanted, including the next county. The chicken was an abandoned fowl on her own, and she was not purchased by Ray's Foods for the entertainment of the patrons.
The next day, Nick gets a call from a Josephine County Sheriff's Deputy by the name of Matt Tripp, telling him he has "stolen" the chicken from Ray's Foods, and that he'll be charged with a felony (!) if he doesn't return the chicken immediately.
Nick calls the local animal protection agency, which employee tells him to keep the chicken, since the chicken is now in his loving protection, away from the very dangerous environment of that parking lot and nearby Hwy. 238.
Deputy Tripp and partner show up at Nick's front gate, asking for access to the yard & house. Nick refuses to allow them in without a search warrant that they admit they don't have. Tripp & Company leave.
Around midnight, Tripp gets a local judge out of bed and has him sign a search warrant. All I can suggest is that the crime rate in Josephine County is either staggeringly low, or our boy Tripp had turned this thing into a private vendetta because some citizen had the audacity to tell him "No" without a search warrant.
The next thing that happens is that four Josephine County Sheriff squad cars loaded with militarized, jack-booted deputies with guns show up at Nick's home at 1:00 AM, armed with a tainted search warrant they received from sleepy Judge Gerald Neufeld. How do you describe a chicken accurately on a search warrant? Anyway, they arrest Nick, a Viet Nam veteran, handcuff him and drag him off to jail like a common criminal wearing nothing more than his red Speedos (bakini briefs). The arresting officers allegedly injure Nick in the process.
Nick is charged with criminal theft of a chicken from private property and kept in jail overnight.
The manager of the Ray's Food store is quoted by a reporter from the Medford Mail Tribune as saying "The chickens are not owned", admitting that this chicken happened upon the parking lot one day, was given food by customers and store employees as the opportunity presented, and nothing more. As such, the chicken was an abandoned domestic fowl, and not property of the store.
My question is this: If the store manager admits no one owns the chicken, then on what grounds did Deputy Tripp accept a criminal theft complaint?? And to carry that question to its next logical conclusion, why did the judge sign this insane search warrant in the first place??
Under Oregon's strict animal protection statutes, Nick was totally innocent of theft from private property, and in fact, he is to be commended for taking the abandoned hen under his care. If Nick is permitted to take a copy of the "Nickel" from its stand after hours, why should he not also be permitted to take an orphan chicken he found next to the stand, huddled in an open crate? The chicken didn't even have a band on its leg. Any dog, cat or coyote would have made a meal of her had he not done so.
So we have to ask ourselves, what in the world is going on here in Josephine County, Oregon? Over a chicken, Deputy Tripp gets a judge out of bed at midnight to sign a search warrant, and then uses the resources of 4 squad cars loaded with armed deputies to arrest and deliberately humiliate a harmless guy at 1:00 AM in the morning?
Didnít those other deputies have patrol duties elsewhere? How could Sheriff Dave Daniel allow such a travesty to take place, when he is constantly crying to the board of Commissioners for more money and shortage of deputies.
Why was this alleged chicken rescuer not arrested during the day time? Why the sudden urgency? Is it possible Dave Daniel likes to execute arrests during the night to maximize the terror on sleepy unsuspecting citizens?
Is Nick considered a terrorist under Sheriff Dave Daniel and the Patriot Act?
The Josephine County D.A. Clay Johnson is leveling several charges at Nick. It appears they are hoping Nick will plea-bargain (which he won't) to some reduced charge, and perhaps be relieved of some hard earned cash.
When I heard of this outrage, I immediately contacted Nickís wife, Kathy, to provide support, and to refer her to my favorite attorney, Foster Glass, of Bend, Oregon. He has taken the case.
More to come on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 by NWV reporter John Taft.
DA Clay Johnson (541) 474-5200
© 2004 Carl Worden - All Rights Reserved
Carl Worden is a Financial Consultant with 30 years experience. Prior to that, Carl served 6 years as Vice President and National Sales Manager for Circus Vargas. Carl lives in California and southern Oregon with his wife of 25 years, Liz. Carl is an avid, extreme long-range rifle shooter; he is a lifelong registered Republican, and a Christian conservative.
"Didnít those other deputies have patrol duties elsewhere? How could Sheriff Dave Daniel allow such a travesty to take place, when he is constantly crying to the board of Commissioners for more money and shortage of deputies."