Guilford County prosecutors announced Friday that they’ve dismissed all five misdemeanor animal cruelty charges that Sheriff BJ Barnes filed against former animal shelter director Marsha Williams.
Barnes charged Williams on Nov. 12, more than a week after prosecutors declined to file charges due to what they called insufficient evidence.
District Attorney J. Douglas Henderson said in a statement that the citations weren’t supported by any new evidence uncovered since they first declined to prosecute. The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office maintained in a statement Wednesday that the citations were based on “real, not manufactured, evidence.”
Henderson said Barnes’ public statements of abundant evidence of felony wrongdoing against shelter employees were “not true then and not true now,” adding Barnes’ actions in this case have been “inexplicable in several respects.”
Henderson noted Barnes’ decision to let his department investigate the case despite Barnes’ involvement with the United Animal Coalition Board of Directors. UAC ran the Guilford and Davidson County animal shelters until state officials revoked the group’s license in August and levied a $300,000 fine.
Deputies said in their statement that Barnes’ role on the board was as a liaison between the board and the county and not as a voting member. The liaison role led to the abuse investigation, which the SBI said was properly handled, deputies said.
Henderson addressed perceived conflicts of interest involving his office with the following statement:
“We do indeed know several members of the UAC board, including Sheriff Barnes, but given that the UAC board is not the target of a criminal investigation, this office has no conflict in handling this matter.”
Barnes said while announcing Williams’ charges that he would ask Davidson County to take on the case. Williams and two other people were indicted on a felony animal cruelty charge in connection with an investigation into the Davidson County Animal Shelter.
Guilford County prosecutors maintain there is no evidence that Williams saw any of the five dogs deputies focused on in their investigation while she was at the Guilford County shelter. Prosecutors said those dogs came into the shelter in poor medical condition, including one that was shot in the face by a Guilford County deputy.
Prosecutors said there is no evidence of actions that worsened the dogs’ conditions at the shelter, and the dogs were humanely euthanized. Deputies maintain Williams delayed euthanization for unreasonably long periods of time.
Prosecutors also said there have been no reports of abused or neglected animals since Guilford County took over shelter operations.
Henderson said his office can’t bring criminal prosecutions “based upon what we think the facts might be, out of our love for animals or in response to public pressure. Down that road lies the wreckage of the Duke Lacrosse case, the Little Rascals Day Care Case and other prosecutorial misadventures.” Deputies said the comparisons to other controversial cases are “entirely inappropriate.”