A West Virginia woman who stood between a cop and a dog he wanted to kill before she was thrown to the ground, arrested and charged with obstructing is in need of a lawyer.
After all, the public defender that had been assigned to her case is married to the state trooper who supervises the trooper who arrested her back in May.
A clear conflict of interest, which probably explains why public defender Lori Snodgrass kept encouraging Tiffanie Hupp to take a plea deal while never revealing that she was married to West Virginia State Police Sergeant First Class Bradley Cooper – who just happens to be trooper Seth Cook’s boss – the rookie cop who arrested her.
But Hupp, 23, a married mother of one who had never been arrested before, refuses to admit to a crime she did not commit.
Especially when Cook barged into her father-in-law’s home in Parkersburg after placing her in his car her and began confiscating phones, knowing he had been recorded.
“It took three to four weeks to get the phones back,” Hupp said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime. “And that was because we kept bugging them every day.”
When police finally returned the phones, she was relieved to discover that the one video of her arrest, recorded by her husband from inside the home, had not been deleted.
The video is not the best quality but it shows Cook walking onto her father-in-law’s property when Buddy, the family dog, begins barking and wagging its tail.
Cook, apparently in fear for his life – and not taking into account that Buddy was leashed – pulled out his gun and aimed it at the dog.
“He said, ‘control your dog now,'” Hupp said.
That was when Hupp, who was in the front yard playing with her three-year-old son, ran up and stood between the two.
And that was when Cook, holding the gun in his left hand, used his right hand to shove her aside.
He then reholstered his gun, grabbed Hupp and walked her over to his patrol car before bending her over his hood and handcuffing her.
“He said I almost got shot,” Hupp said.
The video then goes out after she is handcuffed, but she said after he placed her in the car, he walked into the house without a warrant and began confiscating everybody’s electronic devices, including four phones and two chargers.
“My phone was connected to a charger and he took that as well,” she said.
Her phone was password protected, but they would not return her phone until she provided the password, indicating they most likely searched through it without a warrant.
In his report, Cook accused her of obstruction, claiming he had been investigating a fight when he walked onto the property and the dog began approaching “aggressively.”
He said he took a step back, but then Hupp stepped in front of him, raising her arms while still “seeing the K9 growling and approaching.”
The video shows she never raised her arms. In fact, she was not even facing him, standing sideways, glancing down at the dog and up at the trooper. He even had to take a step towards her to shove her down the ground.
He also acknowledged that the “dog had reached the end of the chain and was not in reach of the undersigned officer.”
So thankfully, Buddy’s life was spared.
“I would give my life for that dog,” Hupp said.
The incident took place on May 9, but came to light early this month when Hupp’s husband went public with the video, despite his wife being told by Snodgrass not to do so.
It’s true that many attorneys urge their clients not to publicize videos of their arrests until the trial, but most attorneys are not married to the man who supervises the man who arrested their client.
And it’s also true that many attorneys urge their clients to take plea deals. Snodgrass, in fact, is known to be one of those attorneys.
But still, her marital connection to the case cannot be ignored. And it should have been disclosed from the beginning.
Making this matter even more egregious is the fact that the Hupps were the ones who called police in the first place after a dispute with their neighbors.
Hupps said that her pregnant sister-in-law was walking outside a gas station when the neighbor almost ran her over.
They called police after her sister-in-law got home and Cook and another trooper responded, going back and forth between her father-in-law’s house and the neighbor’s house. Hupps said there was no physical fight, just some arguing.
After receiving statements from both sides, Cook determined he had no probable cause to proceed further with an investigation, which was when he decided to walk back towards her father-in-law’s home and was confronted by a barking, tail-wagging husky/labrador mix.
“They didn’t even go to the gas station to look at the surveillance video,” Hupp said about the initial investigation.
She was jailed for three hours before she was released. And Cook – who told her his name was “Trooper Cooper” – initially wrote in his report that she was being charged with domestic violence, but another trooper changed it to obstructing.
Cook was hired in March 2014 and graduated from the police academy in July of that year, so it does not appear as if they trained him to respect the Constitutional rights of citizens – not to mention how to handle leashed dogs with wagging tails.
Hupp’s trial had been scheduled for Thursday of this week, but when she showed up to court yesterday, she was told it was being continued because police had yet to file their official final report – even though it’s been more than three months since the arrest.
She did not find out that her assigned public defender, Lori Snodgrass, was married to a trooper until recently. And only because other people began telling her.
And it was only today that PINAC’s Felipe Hemming found out that Bradley Snodgrass is Seth Cook’s boss.
“Talk about being a mouse in a trap,” said Hupp after being informed of this conflict of interest.
Now Hupp is looking for a new attorney, but she is on a budget and said she was unable to afford the $2,500 quoted to her by one attorney she spoke with.
Granted, the case should be dropped based on the video evidence, not to mention the flagrant Fourth Amendment violations of police entering their home without a warrant, seizing her family’s phones and then demanding passwords.
But justice, unfortunately, is never cheap.
If you are a West Virginia attorney interested in her case, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward the message to her.
Here’s the West Virginia State Police Facebook page, in case you would like to leave a comment.