Rufus’ Revenge: Alabama Lawyer Accused Of Slitting Family Dog’s Throat And Sending Picture To Estranged Wife

Alabama lawyer James Stewart Robinson, 45, just may be the lawyer Michael Vick was looking for. Robinson has been charged with cruelty to a dog after he allegedly slit the throat of his family’s pet pit bull and then texted a photo of the dead dog to his estranged wife. The two are in the midst of a bitter divorce and had been arguing of custody of the dog, named Rufus.

Notably, the body of the American Staffordshire bull terrier was exhumed and sent for forensic testing to a lab in Florida as part of a five-month-long investigation. Robinson had not yet turned himself in after the charges were filed.

Robinson is also accused of leaving a voicemail for his wife saying “Your day is coming girl” after sending her the photo of the dead dog, Rufus. That appears to have led to a conviction of Robinson for harassment. He was sentenced to six months, but has appealed the verdict.

The question is whether the wife will now sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress. As we have discussed previously, pets are treated as chattel and damages confined directly to replacement value and other direct costs. However, the damages are higher when the value of the dog is effectively channeled through the pain and suffering of the owner. Tragically, the killing of pets is an all-too-common response to bitter relationships or divorces (here and here and here and here and here and here and here). It is a classic intentional torts for the infliction of emotional distress and the alleged added threat on the email would likely seal the matter for the jury.

Robinson who is shown here bills himself as an expert in the representation of doctors. He is a graduate of Cumberland School of Law – Samford University.

On his website, Robison speaks of how he strives to meet the highest standards of his profession in light of his family history in the bar: “As the son of a prominent Birmingham lawyer, I grew up with a desire to become a reputable lawyer myself.” He may want to focus on preserving his liberty rather than his reputation at this point.

Notably, the state law is written in terms of torture of a dog for a first-degree conviction:

Section 13A-11-241 – Cruelty in first and second degrees.

(a) A person commits the crime of cruelty to a dog or cat in the first degree if he or she intentionally tortures any dog or cat or skins a domestic dog or cat or offers for sale or exchange or offers to buy or exchange the fur, hide, or pelt of a domestic dog or cat. Cruelty to a dog or cat in the first degree is a Class C felony. A conviction for a felony pursuant to this section shall not be considered a felony for purposes of the Habitual Felony Offender Act, Section 13A-5-9 to 13A-5-10.1, inclusive.

(b) A person commits the crime of cruelty to a dog or cat in the second degree if he or she, in a cruel manner, overloads, overdrives, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, unnecessarily or cruelly beats, injuries, mutilates, or causes the same to be done. Cruelty to a dog or cat in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor.

(Act 2000-615, p. 1252, §2.)

The statute is typical of the relative light treatment given to killing pets in many states. If this is the statute under which Robinson is charged, it would presumably be based on a claim that the slitting of the throat of Rufus constitutes a form of torture. However, is that accurate? How would the statute distinguish between torture and a simply killing under such an interpretation?

Even the misdemeanor provision is written in a curious fashion:

Section 13A-11-14 – Cruelty to animals.

(a) A person commits the crime of cruelty to animals if, except as otherwise authorized by law, he or she intentionally or recklessly:

(1) Subjects any animal to cruel mistreatment; or

(2) Subjects any animal in his or her custody to cruel neglect; or

(3) Kills or injures without good cause any animal belonging to another.

(b) Cruelty to animals is a Class B misdemeanor and on the first conviction of a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than three thousand dollars ($3,000) or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both fine and imprisonment; on a second conviction of a violation of this section, shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than three thousand dollars ($3,000) or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both fine and imprisonment; and on a third or subsequent conviction of a violation of this section, shall be punished by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than three thousand dollars ($3,000) or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or both fine and imprisonment.

(Acts 1977, No. 607, p. 812, §5565; Act 2010-550, p. 977, §2.)

Note that it speaks to killing a dog “belonging to another.” Once again, the statutory interpretation is challenging. If a provision covers killing an animal, can you also read “mistreatment” as covering a killing?

These laws are based on long standing approaches to pets as chattel that could be dispatched at the will or whim of owners as with other animals in their possession. Of course, if required to take the animal to the pound, the animal may still be euthanized but would have an chance for adoption. Moreover, the death would be done in a statutorily prescribe manner.

If convicted, it is hard to see how Robinson could meet the lowest possible standard for practice as a member of the bar. The alleged act is one of such depravity and cruelty that it would destroy any notion of fitness to serve as an officer of the court. If he were to admit the crime, he could argue the stress of the divorce and possible mitigating factors connected to the stress of the period. Would this justify a suspension with ordered counseling in your mind or should he be disbarred following a conviction?

Source: AL.Comas first seen on ABA Journal

45 thoughts on “Rufus’ Revenge: Alabama Lawyer Accused Of Slitting Family Dog’s Throat And Sending Picture To Estranged Wife

  1. From the alleged perp’s website:

    “Lawyers solve problems for clients, but in order for the client to receive the best possible representation, an attorney must consider the wide range of options available to the client and then guide the client to make the correct decisions. What separates an average lawyer from a great lawyer is that lawyer’s ability to develop over time an instinct, almost a sixth sense, which can predict outcomes leading to the best choice available.”

    As I’ve said before, this type of cruelty to man and beast disqualifies one from most any responsible post including husband and particularly lawyer. As for my own “sixth sense” let me use mine to channel M. Night Shyamalan and say, ” I see incarcerated people!”

  2. Swarthmore mom, As some have said, though, a restraining order is sometimes the equivalent of a death sentence, in that it may actually provoke someone who is unstable and potentially violent.

  3. This creep needs to be put in jail for a long time and the laws concerning the murdering of pets has to be changed to reflect their true disgusting nature. When someone kills a helpless animal to make a point to a spouse, to me it is akin to the murder of a human being.
    I hope your sixth sense is correct!

  4. How a society treats its animals is a good indication of how it treats its members. How an individual owner treats his/her animals is a good indication of their character as well. I hope mespo’s rather odoriferous prognostication comes to pass as well.

  5. Could he have chosen a more gruesome way to kill this dog? This is the act of a madman. Maybe he should claim temporary insanity.

  6. I agree. He will receive judgment that is equal for what he dd. His soul will not like Gods light for breaking the heart of his wife. He is indeed foolish for doing what he did. Why can’t people do good instead of evil?

  7. Gene H, I totally agree. He wanted custody so badly that he killed what he wanted custody of. It was probably more of a power play than anything. It’s a shame that a defenseless dog who trusted him had to be at the center of it. The same often happens to children; it’s not what’s best for them, but who wants to hurt the other more. This guy shouldn’t even get a public defender to represent him, but I suppose he must.

  8. I don’t know that I agree about the “How we treat our animals” is an indicator of how we treat people. From child abuse, spousal abuse, rape, assault, murder, etc., I believe we treat our animals better than our fellow humans. And, I know many people who get more outraged about animal abuse than abuse to humans.

  9. maxcat – we certainly have seen this in human custody disputes. One partner or the other threatens to, or actually does, kill the child(ren) rather than let the other parent “win”. Its a sickness

  10. First, get this guy restrained–in a jail or mental hospital. He is a threat to everyone. Second, the wife should get an enforceable restraining order, oxymoron I know but she should have one. third, finalize the divorce. These of course can be and should be done at the same time.
    The state should prosecute on animal cruelty grounds and any crime related to the sending od the picture to his wife. It was obviously a threat.
    The bar should also consider disbarment proceedings. He is unfit to be a lawyer. ( No lawyer jokes, please.)

    I wish the wife the best of luck in ridding herself of this mad man.

  11. I could see the intentional infliction of emotional duress as being more so in this case compared with the question about this in a previous thread about the person shooting the dog with the bow and arrow.

    I would argue the slitting of the dog’s throat is tantamount to a felony harassment in that it could be articulated that killing pets/animals has been historically used sometimes to cause duress against a person and infer that the person might be next if they did not behave as demanded. You are all familiar with at least the horse in the movie The Godfather. I would opin it would be culturally relevent in the US.

    Especially the felony harassment in that the indication would be the woman would be next.

    Here is another reason I would offer not to allow a person to be a member of the bar who has done what is alleged here. It is one of coercive reputation. A lawyer who had been known in the community that was willing to resort to slitting the throat of a dog to intimidate a party to a civil action might cause in the mind of another party to believe that if they did not settle/dismiss or whatever the case they too could be subject to extra-legal actions by the attorney. It would be some undue influence.

    I also agree a person acting in this manner is unsuited to be a practicing lawyer as the other commenters have stated.

  12. Do you have any idea the abuse Jesus gets who is in people, the least of this his brethren? Can Jesus be in a person saying he has to go to jail or would the enemies of Jesus say that?

  13. I imagine this guy will be hearing “dog killer” shouted at him the rest of his career. Dog killer whispered at him, and silent leers of disgust. What a jerk.
    I don’t see a bright shiny future for him.

  14. Oddly enough, we speak about the unspeakable all the time around here, Dredd.

    And what shano said. If not clinically pathological, these are the kind of actions an amphetamine binge could create.

  15. Some person should kill that jerk. Tie him to a firehydrant and slit his ankles. When he is dead the wandering dogs can leisurely pee on him.

  16. BarkinDog ,Unbeknown to you the devil wants to do that to people in his jail that human eyes have not seen. Those that want to do what you said have the devil fantasying about doing that very act to people..

  17. When that schmuck dies he will go to the Pearly Gates for his interview. If it is a Wednesday, Saint Peter will be playing golf and will have one of his many “stand ins” sitting up there to take the plea. It will be a Saint Bernard. The schmuck will not be sent to Hell. They call it pergatory. Not Limbo. It is likely that he will be sent to Morocco as a dog– tied upside down by his feet in a marketplace, for sale for human consumption. Then after that, and he comes back for interview number two, Saint Peter will send him to Hell.

  18. It’s interesting to read all these replies. I too believe that what that man did was cruel, but for all the replies made, how many of you are pro abortion? Just asking…….

  19. I am against abortion as much as possible. When David sinned against God having the husband of Bathsheba go to the front lines to end up getting killed lost his first born son. His second son became Solomon.

  20. This man is sick, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law has. 1. This was a threat against his wife. 1 (again). He did a hideous act that should be treated as a madman. He’s sick. He must be disbarred and thrown in jail for a long time. Anyone who would kill their dog as a threat to the wife is really sick.That’s twisted, and sick.

  21. The question is totally relevent Joy. You Liberals are all for protecting innocent animals, and I am too, but what about the innocent babies that are killed every year by the millions? You’ll shed tears for a dog, me too, but what about the innocent babies?

  22. Take for example. If he was I. A blackout and doesn’t remember doing this cruel act, then what? Still gotta face the consequences, but would show that people do things they wouldn’t do in their right minds. Not defending, just throwing out the facts.

  23. Based on Romans 1:28, KJV=: that guy that sent the photo is as evil as the rich man that killed a poor mans pet sheep that was like a daughter to him to feed a visitor being a maliciousness murderer without understanding full of malignity without natural affection having no love being implacable, and unmerciful. He is an inventor of evil things having pleasure in them being worthy of death, and will get it when Gods light shines on his unchanged sinful body.

Comments are closed.