Duncan animal-abuse trial adjourned after lawyer asks to withdraw

DUNCAN — The animal-abuse trial into the neglect and death of Teddy the dog has been adjourned after defence lawyer Scott Sheets asked to withdraw as counsel for personal reasons.

Anderson Joe’s trial was expected to continue Friday morning. The 62-year-old has pleaded not guilty to causing unnecessary pain, suffering and injury to the dog and failing to provide food, water and shelter in February 2018.

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Lawyer Simon Knott told the court that Sheets has made an application to withdraw as a result of “personal tragedy and his own health.”

“He is unable to leave the house at this point,” Knott said. “He is trying to get new counsel for Mr. Joe.”

Prosecutor John Blackman told the court that Sheets contacted him Thursday afternoon and said he wished to withdraw. “I said I would not oppose,” Blackman said.

The lawyers did not say what the tragedy was.

Judge Mayland McKimm noted that Sheets is a well-respected member of the bar.

“Tragic circumstances have arisen that have made it impossible for him to continue in this matter, but he must find alternate arrangements,” McKimm said.

“I am not prepared to excuse him from the record at this point. … I would not grant such an application unless I am satisfied that justice can be done.”

McKimm said he wants to hear more about Sheets’ efforts to get a new defence lawyer for Joe. The judge said he is not prepared to grant a mistrial and wants the case back in court before March 29.

Knott also withdrew Melissa Tooshley’s guilty plea to failing to provide the necessities to the dog, which was entered on Feb. 27, the first day of trial.

Tooshley appeared in provincial court in Duncan on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to the same charge — but not as Joe’s co-accused.

The court was worried that it would be difficult to call Tooshley as a witness in the trial if she remained as Joe’s co-accused. Removing her as a co-accused makes the process cleaner, the court heard.

About 10 people continued to protest outside the courthouse on Friday, and the public gallery overflowed with people during the short proceeding.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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