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Jury assesses deputy who punched other dog owner

Attorney: She acted in self-defense
By: Lien Hoang, The Press Tribune
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The prosecution gave an opening punch Wednesday in the trial of a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy who hit a civilian while off duty. Placer County prosecutor Kate Scarborough slammed her right fist into her left hand to dramatize for jurors the violence of June 18. That day, Monica Chavez punched Shelly Riley at Bear Dog Park after their dogs got into a fracas. Both women live in Roseville. The blow was “pretty darn hard,” Riley said in the trial’s first testimony, at Auburn’s Historic Courthouse. Prosecutors exhibited June 18 photos of the 35-year-old with a red blotch on her left cheek. Photos from June 19 showed a purple bruise had appeared on her left jaw and a half-dozen red scratches on her back. Chavez, 33, faces one misdemeanor count of battery – a relatively minor charge, but one that could imperil her career in law enforcement. If convicted, Chavez would lose her deputy position “because she can’t carry a weapon” under the law, Sacramento County sheriffs spokesman Sgt. Tim Curran said Friday. She could be moved to an office job, which she has held since being cited for the row. Even if Chavez isn’t convicted, she could be placed on leave, Curran said. Her lawyer, Michael Bowman, shaped Chavez’s actions as self-defense. The day of the confrontation, the women’s dogs reportedly clashed twice. The first time, the owners grabbed their respective pets, but the second time, Riley rushed to move Chavez’s two pugs off her own miniature pinscher. Riley, a Playboy event planner/model, said Wednesday she “rescued” her dog by sliding away the pugs that had “attacked.” “Is there any reason why you couldn’t say, ‘Ms. Chavez, can you come get your dog?’” Bowman asked her. “No,” Riley said. She said the defendant seized her from behind, and as she half stood and turned around, Chavez struck her. The deputy then said again and again “You threw my dogs!” according to Riley. But Bowman said Riley’s rough handling of the pugs left one still limping to this day. He accused her of ignoring Chavez, who before Riley touched the pugs told her to leave them alone. The combination of witnessing animals harmed, not hearing a response from Riley, and then seeing her turn around swiftly put Chavez in defense mode, Bowman said, an instinctive result of 11 years serving the law. Riley, who is weighing a civil lawsuit, said she was afraid to leave her house the next day, though she did. “If you were so fearful of Ms. Chavez, why would you go back to the same dog park?” Bowman asked of Riley’s return to the park June 19. Donna Mangurian, who was watching her shepherd mix play at Bear Dog Park this week, expressed shock that anyone would get violent at the park. “She’s an officer, she should have known better,” Mangurian said. “Our dogs have had scuffles, but all the owners are nice about it.” All but one: she remembered a man who once kicked her pet away from his own, but he never returned and the park has been peaceful otherwise. Ray Sutera, also at the park, was not as surprised by the clash, having seen others overprotective of their dogs. “Dogs fight one minute and then they’re friends,” Sutera said, likening the dog park experience to that of a little league game. “It’s fun until the parents get involved.” Keeping an eye on his two English bulldogs, Sutera added that most owners understand the need to compromise. “If she didn’t like how her dogs were being treated, she should have gotten out of there,” he said. The jury, which began deliberations Thursday, will reconvene Monday, and later deliver a verdict to judge Mark S. Curry. Lien Hoang can be reached at lienh@goldcountrymedia.com.