Ridgway Resident Found Guilty by Jury for Keeping Roosters
by Gus Jarvis
Jun 09, 2010 | 2289 views | 1 1 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OURAY – Following two days of testimony, a three-member jury has found Ridgway resident “Planet” Janet Smith guilty on charges of keeping a rooster within town limits and not guilty for creating a nuisance within town limits. Her sentence was the maximum fine of $300.

It took the jury 30 minutes to reach the two verdicts.

The jury trial was held at the Ouray County Courthouse on Tuesday and Wednesday with county Judge David S. Westfall presiding. Smith, who lives in historic buildings at 610 Clinton Street in Ridgway’s Historic Business District pled not guilty to both charges.

Smith was issued a court summons on Oct. 23, 2009, by Ridgway Deputy Marshal Allan Holybee, according to his testimony at the trial. The summons came after members of the Ridgway Town Council approved an ordinance on July 8, 2009, that prohibits the keeping of roosters at residences within town limits. Any residents who had roosters before the ordinance was enacted had 30 days from July 8 to remove any roosters. The town also has a separate nuisance prohibition in place, but Smith was acquitted of charges she was in violation of it.

Smith, who was represented by Grand Junction-based attorney Leslie Castro, testified on Tuesday. Castro began her examination of Smith by asking her if she has any “roosters at her home now?”

“No I do not,” Smith said, who was tearful throughout her testimony. Most of Castro’s questions to Smith dealt with how Smith had first heard complaints about the noise her roosters had made before the ordinance was passed and how she dealt with the complaints. Smith said before the ordinance was passed she had approximately 42 birds, including eight roosters.

After the ordinance was passed, Smith, testified that she could not find homes for her roosters quickly enough to avoid violating the law. Castro asked her whether she would have found homes for her roosters before the ordinance was enacted, if she could have? Smith answered “yes.”

“Were you able to?” Castro asked.

“No,” Smith replied.

In her cross-examination of Smith, prosecuting attorney Katheryn Sellars, representing the Town of Ridgway, asked Smith if she had roosters after the ordinance was enacted. Castro objected, saying that Smith had already answered that question during her questioning.

“I can’t incriminate myself in the court of law,” Smith answered. After speaking with both attorneys in his chambers Westfall told the jury that Smith had the right to not testify against herself and that she didn’t have to answer the question.

During the two-day trial, the prosecution brought seven witnesses, including former Ridgway Town Manager Greg Clifton, Ridgway Chief Marshal David Scott, Building Inspector and code enforcement officer Bill Behan, and several residents who testified that they had heard the roosters crowing.

A photo and video taken by Behan in December 2009 of Smith’s backyard was admitted into the court as evidence. The photo, which was date-stamped, depicted more than one rooster. The audio that was captured in the video (taken same day as the photo) clearly depicted the crowing of a rooster several times in the clip.

Behan was asked what Smith said to him while he was taking photos and making that video, he testified that she told him, “You are disturbing my roosters.”

At many times during the trial, it was unclear whether witnesses were describing the sounds of the roosters before the ordinance was enacted or after the ordinance was enacted, with much of the trial focused on why the ordinance was initially enacted by the Ridgway Town Council and the complaints that Clifton had received that led to the ordinance.

Clifton testified that after he initially made contact with Smith about rooster complaints in an email before the ordinance was passed, Smith, on a Sunday morning, dialed 911 three separate times.

“The matter was escalating out of control,” Clifton said in his testimony. “The initial email I sent was very cordial. She responded with a direct and assertive email and that was followed by three back to back to back 911 emergency phone calls on a Sunday morning. She wanted the police to come out and verify that the roosters were not crowing.”

“I wanted to prove that I already had taken action to make my situation workable for everybody,” Smith said in her testimony.

Besides Smith, the defense brought seven witnesses to testify, most of whom live or work near Smith’s residence. All of them testified that the sounds the roosters and chickens Smith kept at her residence were not a nuisance.

County resident Ann Irwin, who works in Ridgway, said she has been at Smith’s residence before and that she was “sure” they were making noise but not to the point that it “stuck” in her mind.

Ridgway resident Richard Crabb testified that he never heard constant crowing during the day and that the sounds only occurred “once and awhile.”

“They weren’t as noisy as the traffic going up and down the alley,” Crabb said.

In her closing argument, Castro told the jury that the complaints heard during the testimony “don’t fit with the notions of reality.”

“Who gets to decide what is a nuisance?” Castro asked.

In his sentencing, Judge Westfall told Smith that it was “unreasonable” for her to have kept the roosters at least an extra four months after the ordinance went into effect.

“I think you have disregarded the laws in Ridgway,” Westfall said.
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wait till Clifton
June 09, 2010
discovers all the nuts we have in Telluride...

Can you imagine this...reminds me of Alice's Restaurant...