Man Convicted of Violating Dog Leash Law, Can't Leave Southern California

| by Michael Allen

John Gladwin and his cattle dog Molly are not allowed to enter the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Los Angeles, or he will go to jail.

Gladwin, 69, is not allowed to leave Southern California unless his probation officer allows it.

The federal government has cracked down on the retiree because he violated a leash law two times per the regulations of the National Park Services.

"I've never had someone, while a trial was pending, go and commit the same offense. He's incorrigible," Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon McCaslin told the LA Weekly. "He thinks the park is his backyard."

Actually, the park is Gladwin's backyard. His home is only a few hundred feet from the Santa Monica Mountains.

"Molly and I have never been cited for anything causing any kind of problem," Gladwin told the LA Weekly. "This is all so ridiculous, spending all this money to do this. The probation department doesn't even take it seriously. They deal with gangbangers, drug dealers, murderers. And here I am, for a dog leash."

Neither Molly or Gladwin's other dog have ever bothered people or animals within the national park. However, even if Gladwin enters the national park without a dog he can still be arrested.

Gladwin has refused a plea bargain offered by McCaslin, but instead has gone to trial twice. During his last trial, Gladwin testified that he took his dog's leash off to feed her a biscuit while they were outside the national park.

The judge didn't believe him, Gladwin was found guilty, given a 12-month probation and a suspended jail sentence, but his lawyer Dan Kapelovitz of the Radical Law Center is appealing his conviction.

"I’ll take any case where the government is attempting to deprive people of their life, liberty or property, but this case was particularly worthwhile because my client was facing six months in jail and a $5,000 fine for merely having a dog off-leash," Kapelovitz told Opposing Views. "No one was harmed or even in danger of being harmed."

"Until I got involved, the government had not even provided my client with the evidence that was to be used against him as required by law," added Kapelovitz. "Essentially, my client is being punished for exercising his constitutional right to go to trial."

"In federal court, a person facing up to six months in jail is not entitled to a trial by jury even though the Constitution could not be clearer on the subject," said Kapelovitz. "The Sixth Amendment guarantees, 'In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.' It contains no exceptions. So, instead of being tried to a jury of his peers, my client’s fate was determined by a magistrate judge who, like a great many federal judges, is a former federal prosecutor."

Kapelovitz sees Gladwin's case as "a growing trend in the over-criminalization of everyday activities."

"Now, he’s on probation for a year, and has to obtain written permission just to travel out of the area," said Kapelovitz. "In addition, a probation officer can enter and search his home anytime. In fact, a probation officer has already done so, going into every room of my client’s home and around his property. What could he possible be looking for? Unused dog leashes? It’s totally insane."

Kapelovitz had a chilling reminder for Americans who may think the ever-growing police state can't touch them.

"There are literally tens of thousands of federal crimes, some of which many Americans accidentally commit every day," stated Kapelovitz. "For example, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if you violate the terms of service of a social networking site by, say, creating a Facebook account for your pet cat, you have just committed a federal offense."

Sources: LA Weekly, Radical Law Center, (Image Credit: Dan Kapelovitz)