This Week in Allegedly: Cops and Cats

Good morning!

A lot has happened since last week’s Allegedly! Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump in the Election. Trump won’t accept defeat, so he’s filed a bunch of “flimsy” lawsuits. The drama has not ended. The break we all needed has not arrived.

Hopefully, today’s edition will raise your spirits. We’ve got items on cops, conspiracy theories, and most importantly, cats.

The Allegedly List

  • Several layoffs at the Civilian Complaint Review Board on Thursday prompted allegations of retaliation. While the layoffs of four senior officials had been cast as a restructuring that would broaden investigative capabilities, some staffers claimed they stemmed from these officials’ criticizing the CCRB’s response when the New York Police Department doesn’t cooperate with its probes. The CCRB chair claimed in a statement that these high-ranking positions were cut to make available approximately $600,000 for hiring about 20 more investigators. Via The New York Times
  • In two New York City neighborhoods, health workers—not cops—will soon respond to emergency calls that report people “in mental distress.” Come February, “Mental Health Teams” comprised of medics and social workers will respond to these calls in the two “high-need communities.” This pilot program— which comes amid heightened scrutiny of the NYPD, especially how officers treat persons in mental distress—could be expanded elsewhere in the city, officials said. Via Newsday
  • Staten Island man Brian Maiorana was arrested Tuesday after allegedly threatening to kill protesters, politicians, and cops “in retaliation for the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election,” and ordering others to do the same, according to the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s Office.  In one of Maiorana’s menacing social media missives, the convicted sex offender allegedly referred to Chuck Schumer as “the Jew Senator from Jew York” and discussed The Turner Diaries, a novel depicting a race war that reportedly inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, per the feds. “The Turner Diaries must come to life,” Maiorana allegedly wrote.  Via Eastern District of New York
  • The first jury trial in Queens since the Covid-19 pandemic hit started this week and had a “decidedly different” feel that went beyond social distancing. If the defendant wanted to ask his lawyer a question, for example, “he’ll have to pick up a smart phone and chat with his lawyer seated on the other side of a plexiglass barrier.” Explained David Brand: “The design makes the attorney table look like a penalty box.”  Via Queens Daily Eagle
  • An NYPD cop used his position in the department to help drug traffickers—giving them intel on law enforcement procedures, doing warrant checks on his co-conspirators, and distributing coke at least once, Brooklyn federal prosecutors alleged Monday. Amaury Abreu, who made 108,000 in 2019, pleaded not guilty through his attorney.  Abreu’s alleged co-conspirators are reportedly “high-ranking members” of an unnamed drug trafficking organization. Via New York Post

The Allegedly Original

Catnapping Courtroom Drama in Old New York

By Peggy Gavan

On Oct. 16, 1894, the Evening World reported that a Lower East Side cigar dealer accused a janitor of stealing his Maltese shop cat.  According to the story, the large gray shop cat was “the apple of his eye” and spent her days lounging on his Henry Street cigar counter “in snug peacefulness.”

One day, the cat went missing. While searching for his lost feline friend, the cigar dealer found her in the possession of the janitor. He asked the police to arrest the janitor, who lived nearby on Jefferson Street, on charges of petty larceny.

At the court hearing, the judge told the cigar dealer that this was a civil case, and so he would have to take the janitor to civil court if he wanted to get his cat back. The Evening World reporter commented on the fate of the cigar dealer by stating, “He may render himself homeless in pursuit of the feline, for lawyers are ruthless and courts are slow.”

The newsman suggested that instead of turning to the civil court, the shop owner should sit quietly by his cigar lighter and wait patiently for the cat’s inevitable return. “There is no use going to law about a feline. For the cat always comes back.”

Perhaps the lawyers were ruthless and the courts were slow, but that didn’t stop the residents of Old New York from fighting in the courts to get their cats back—especially when their cats were held against their will. Oftentimes, court hearings over a catnapped feline were quite humorous and absurd—so much so, that newspapers throughout the country could not resist picking up stories from the New York press about these comical cat proceedings.

For example, in October 1895, Magistrate Henry A. Brann of the Yorkville Police Court spent 35 minutes trying to settle a cat-ownership dispute between Mrs. Mary Hall and Mrs. Anna Staubstaudt. The ongoing dispute between these two East 40s residents had aggravated their neighbors, many of whom were in court that day to see the matter finally settled.

According to The New York Times, which dedicated a half column of prime newspaper real estate to the story, Mrs. Hall lived in a rear tenement behind Mrs. Staubstaudt’s building. She had one Angora cat named Tommy who was “strong of lungs, and great in fighting qualities.” Mrs. Staubstaudt had a male and female feline of the “plain backyard variety.”

On June 16 of that year, Mrs. Hall’s cat mysteriously disappeared, which is something he had never done before. As she was planning to go to the country for the summer, Mrs. Hall had no choice but to leave two windows and a door open so Tommy could get back into the apartment. She then instructed two gentlemen friends to check on her home and to ship Tommy to her country address when he came back, the newspaper said.

But the cat did not come back.

When she returned in October, Mrs. Hall discovered that Mrs. Staubstaudt had imprisoned Tommy in her apartment. She refused to give the cat back, and even had the gall to charge Mrs. Hall for boarding the cat for the four months she was away, the woman alleged.

“Have you that woman’s cat?” Magistrate Brann asked the cat-napper.

“Yes, I have,” Mrs. Staubstaudt firmly replied, according to The Times.

Then the judge made the mistake of asking her why she had not returned the cat to Mrs. Hall.

“This cat came to my house almost starved ten days after Mrs. Hall went to the country. The cat never had enough to eat.”

“What!?” shrieked Mrs. Hall. “How dare you! You stole that cat. You were always jealous of my cat.”

“I took your cat in and fed him as an act of charity, and he repaid it by clawing the fur of my dear Benny. If you think so much of Tommy, why don’t you pay for his board?”

For the next few minutes, the two women argued back and forth until Magistrate Brann jumped out of his seat and cried, “Stop!”

He told Mrs. Staubstaudt to return the cat to Mrs. Hall, but her attorney, John H. Whitney, protested. “This woman has a lien on the cat for board, the same as in the case of a stray horse picked up and boarded,” the lawyer said.

“Pshaw! Pshaw!” the magistrate retorted. “If you want to collect for the board of this cat, bring action in the civil court. Go home and get your cat, Mrs. Hall,” he said.

Then addressing Mrs. Staubstaudt, he said, “You return this woman’s cat. You have no right to it.” Cat case dismissed.

Although the late 1800s was the most popular era of cat court cases in the news, unusual stories about cats in the courts continued to make the headlines in the early 1900s. The case of Pinky, the cat that winked, was one such case that garnered a lot of media attention. Originally covered by the New York Daily News on March 11, 1931, Pinky’s story was picked up by several city newspapers across the country.

The scene for this cat court case was the second-floor courtroom of the West Side Magistrates Court at 314 West 54th Street, with Magistrate Michael A. Ford presiding. On this particular day, a cat named Pinky appeared before the judge in person, so to speak, to plead her case.

The issue at hand was, did Pinky belong to the defendant, John Bonner of 354 West 52nd Street, or did she belong to the plaintiff, Frances Borrah, of the same address? According to the press, the neighbors had both claimed ownership of the large black-and-white tabby cat. Miss Borrah had accused Bonner of stealing the cat; Bonner claimed the cat had always belonged to him.

“He’s my cat. I’ll show you,” Bonner told Ford. The cat, wrapped in a blanket with a red ribbon and an ornamental chain, was placed on the floor. Bonner called the cat Tom, made a loop with his arms, and told the cat to jump. The cat simply yawned and began washing her face.

Miss Borrah then took her turn to prove ownership of the cat. She told the judge that she had taught the cat to wink, and this would prove she was hers, according to the newspaper.

“Pinky, wink at the judge!” she commanded. The spectators held their breath and craned their necks forward. A “deathly silence” prevailed, broken only by a slight rustle as the judge shifted uneasily in his robe.

The cat turned her head toward the magistrate and slowly, as if aware of her fate and the tremendous weight placed on her, closed her right eye. The spectators cheered.

“My, my,” Magistrate Ford reportedly replied. “It’s your cat,” he ruled. “Take him—or her—and go your way in peace.”

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