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Town Employee Found Guilty of Animal Cruelty

Thomas Alexander, director of human services, to lose job because of verdict; attorney granted one-week stay to prepare argument against that ruling.

For the judge hearing accusations of animal cruelty against one Morristown employee, his verdict came down to the amount of time the defendant said he had his dog before calling animal control, and a man named "Frankie," whom no one else had ever seen.

Thomas Alexander, director of human services for Morristown, was found guilty Thursday night of all charges stemming from accusations of animal cruelty by "failing to provide a living creature with proper sustenance,” according to complaints.

As a result, besides accumulating several thousand dollars in fines, the guilty verdict carries with it a state statute requirement the 61-year-old lifelong Morristown resident vacate his municipal position immediately (the judge in a later reversal decided Alexander would not be required to vacate his position with the town —ed.).

That penalty was given a stay for one week while Alexander's attorney, Gary Moylen, prepares an argument against the employment termination.

Judge Gerard Smith, of the Rockaway Township Municipal Court, heard the case because of Alexander's employment with Morristown. In his ruling, the judge said Alexander's claim a man named Malik "Frankie" Rashid—a Newark resident who would come to Flagler Street in a black pickup truck to pass out material promoting the Nation of Islam—was cause for concern because, "no one has seen or known Frankie," Smith said.

In his defense Alexander had said he had to move from his Flagler Street apartment to a new residence that did not allow animals. Having befriended "Frankie," who had taken a liking to Alexander's dog "Satin," he gave "Frankie" the dog.

About a month later, in late December 2011, Alexander said he was in the neighborhood and saw Satin, now severely malnourished. When he saw his old dog in that terrible condition, Alexander said he panicked.

"I cried, I picked the dog up, went to the apartment I still had the key for and examined the dog," he said during testimony in September. "I was overcome with emotion."

Alexander said he fed the dog with food he still had at the apartment and gave her water and proceeded to look for "Frankie." To this day, "Frankie" has not been found.

About two days after seeing Satin, Alexander contacted Morristown Animal Control Officer Samantha Judson, who then took the animal to a veteranarian. That vet, Margaret Kearns, used a nine-point scale to determine the health of a dog, nine being overweight, five ideal, one near death. Satin, she said, rated a two.

"The dog was severely emasciated, dehydrated, very timid and lethargic," Judson said during testimony in September. "Her hair was falling out. Every bone in her body was showing."

Moylen had argued Alexander could not be blamed for neglect caused by "Frankie." He said Thursday prosecution had offered no proof that Alexander had caused Satin's condition.

"In order to convict somebody, you need proof," he said. "There is no proof of who had the dog. If there is no proof whatsoever of who had this dog, how can you convict somebody for such a horrible thing?"

Smith, who took about 45 minutes to return to the court to make his ruling, said it was "probably one of the toughest decisions" he has had to make as a judge.

He said it was "Frankie" and the roughly-48-hours Alexander had claimed to have had the dog before contacting Judson that lead to his decision.

Although a number of witnesses had spoken on Alexander's behalf in September, including the defendant's son, "nobody else ever saw 'Frankie,' nobody else ever knew 'Frankie,'" Smith said.

The judge pointed to testimony from Kearns, whom he called "a very credible witness," who said a severely dehydrated animal such as Satin would have shown noticeable signs of rehydration within 12 hours of being given a drink. This, despite Alexander having testified to feeding and watering the dog before he said he went to look for "Frankie."

"Why didn't he take her to the vet immediately," Smith asked. "Why did he wait?

"He knew the dog wasn't in great shape," the judge said. "Instead, he goes and looks for 'Frankie.' ... The 'Frankie' thing is far-fetched, but the '48 hours' was the straw that broke the camel's back."

After informing Alexander of his penalties—which besides losing his job as Director of Human Services will include 30 days of community service with the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and being required to pay the $1,600 veteranarian bill—Smith said, "I know it's been a tough night for you.

"I had to do what I thought was proper, I know you don't feel that way."

Moylen, visibly angry, said he would not comment but would appeal.

Several family members in attendance cried in the courtroom and in the municipal court parking lot after Alexander's case had been adjourned. One woman spoke out in the courtroom that Alexander had been an employee in Morristown for 35 years.

"This is awful. The man is sick," she said of Alexander, who cited illness during testimony in September. "They just killed a man."

Tara H. October 26, 2012 at 02:31 AM
I'm sorry to see Mr. Alexander lose his job, that was extremely harsh and I don't agree with it. But I do feel he should be held accountable for the neglect of poor Satin. The story of "Frankie" just sounds too far fetched. I'm just happy that Satin will get the medical attention she deserves.
Joseph M. Davis October 26, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Although mistreatment of animals is a terrible thing, there is some doubt about the facts in this case, and it seems to me an extreme and disproportionate punishment to fire Alexander from his lifelong job. I think justice would be better served with a sentence of community service and a fine to go to benefit animal shelters.
Moira October 26, 2012 at 02:50 PM
My kids played basketball at "the Nabe" for years and, weekly, there was a guy at the end of the street, his vehicle parked near the corner, handing out literature about Islam. I can't remember what he drove. Also, why on earth would Mr. Alexander call Animal Control if his intent ever was to mistreat this dog? This judge imposed a job-loss penalty for a 48 hour period, based on the testimony of an Animal Control Officer about what the dog should have looked like if watered during that period? Animal Control personnel are not veterinarians, and this judge sounds like a moron. I think the answer here might be found in the fact that the Town has wanted to get rid of Mr. Alexander for a while. How fortunate for the powers that be that a kangaroo court was ready and waiting to do its dirty work.
Peter Feldman October 26, 2012 at 03:06 PM
He called the authorities himself worried about the dog! And he is found guilty of abuse? Sounds more like he saved the dog. I wonder how many white people would have gotten arrested for calling authorities worried about a dog! This is sick
thebiggestern October 26, 2012 at 05:37 PM
it's a dog gone shame this happened.
Motown Resident October 27, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Sounds to me like the Mayor has quite the plum job to hand out to one of his cronies...................this was a set-up from the beginning. Has anyone heard about the zoning officer, it seems like DUI's are front page news but this story is being buried? (and i'm not implying it's the patch burying it, it just seems the Mayor has silenced everyone on this one) which means.................
Marie S. October 27, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I cant believe some of you ! A set up ? Did you see the dog emaciated, I did, real not a set up. Making race an issue ? Nice try ... I am black and am so happy with the decision. People need to finally realize that when you hurt an animal, you get in serious trouble.
Moira October 27, 2012 at 02:15 PM
The issue, Marie, is that many do not think that it was Mr. Alexander who hurt the dog.
Joseph M. Davis October 27, 2012 at 03:09 PM
The harshness of the penalty -- being fired after 35 years of municipal employment -- should require a greater quantum of proof than was adduced here.
Moira October 27, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I agree completely. And if you want to fire a civil servant for cause, do it the proper way. Don't do it on trumped-up charges that publicly sully someone's reputation.
Mike Roff October 28, 2012 at 01:20 AM
It doesn't matter it takes a long time to abuse an animal the way it was abused. Who in their right mind gives away a pet or better yet a family member when you really love and take care of any animal. Its a member of the family. Then to have it come back this way and you don't immediately take care of it. Bull shite! He received the right penalty. So don;t accuse the mayor, and or select a color scheme. Isn't that what is wrong now with this country, white republican president and Benghazi would have been enough to impeach, a black president and Benghazi, and no media coverage. Who's color blind?
Mark November 11, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Tom Alexander is now the victim of a broken municipal court system, which he benefited from and abused during his 35 years. The verdict against him is wrong, but so were hundreds of verdicts against innocent defendants he prosecuted in Morristown by lying in court. In the end, municipal courts ALWAYS find defendants guilty, no matter who they are. He should be fired, but for other reasons.

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