There is a tongue-in-cheek statement that I have always found amusing in a sad sort of way that “No good deed goes unpunished.” This statement is often borne out in our world. People doing kind things with the best of intentions are sometimes treated badly as a result and, when this happens, our society loses, both because the person is dissuaded from doing such good deeds again and because it causes others to be disinclined to do good things and risk suffering retribution as a result.
A perfect example of “no good deed goes unpunished” happened to Eileen McAfee and, rather than just take it, Eileen fought back. Thankfully, she was vindicated recently by a Federal District Court jury. The facts have been detailed in several news reports including one in the Times-Dispatch and that recitation of the relevant events can be found here.
I think very highly of Eileen’s dedicated and tireless work for the well-being of animals through many years. I was horrified and totally flabbergasted when I heard of her being arrested in her home and taken in a squad car to the Powhatan facility where she was fingerprinted and charged with the crime of withholding the location of a potentially rabid dog. While I had no doubt that Eileen would never withhold any such information from Powhatan County, I also could not imagine why on earth the county would engage in such outrageously aggressive measures to deal with this sort of matter. Eileen, after the horrible experience of being arrested, was then subjected to months of fear, embarrassment and stress before she was acquitted of the charges, as I knew she would be. She then undertook a lawsuit against Christine Boczar, the head of Animal Control for Powhatan County who was the person responsible for the arrest warrant and charges.
After more information came to light in connection with Eileen’s lawsuit, the reason for the county’s over-the-top, jackboot sort of approach to treating Eileen became clear. Ms. Bozcar was recorded in a conversation with another county employee that made clear that she had Eileen confused with someone else that she referred to as a “kook” and a member of an animal group that Eileen is not actually a member of. Bozcar said that she would “guarantee” that this person would never come back into Powhatan County after being treated this way.
It should come as no surprise that, after a jury heard this, they agreed with Eileen that this constituted malicious prosecution and violated federal law. Eileen will receive back both her attorney’s fees in defending the criminal action and her attorneys’ fees in pursuing the malicious prosecution case. This sort of behavior on the part of a county official should concern and offend all of us. While Eileen was not actually the person that Ms. Bozcar was seeking to teach a lesson to and keep out of the county for the future, no one should be subjected to such treatment – especially when all they were trying to do was to do a good thing for a dog that needed help. Law enforcement officers should not be manipulating the legal process in order to teach lessons to people they do not like for one reason or another. No reasonable person would ever have wanted Eileen to have had to endure this miserable treatment but, thankfully, she was both willing and able to stand up for not only her rights but the rights of others by suing Ms. Boczar.
So, it is my hope that the take away lesson here is not “No good deed goes unpunished.” I hope the lesson to law enforcement officers is that they must treat everyone, even those with whom they do not agree, with fairness and reason. And, for the rest of us, the take away lesson in my view should be that we have a better community and a better society when we have the courage to stand up both for helpless animals and for our own rights under the law. My sincere thanks to Eileen for providing us with a great example of having that courage.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.