A West Virginia woman who stood between her dog and a cop who was about to shoot it was acquitted by a jury of obstruction charges on February, 29th, 2016.
West Virginia state trooper Seth Cook testified that he was not afraid of the dog, but was following training that required him to kill all dogs that approach him, even if it was chained and wagging its tail as Buddy was doing in this case.
And because Tiffanie Hupp tried to stop him from doing so, she was arrested.
Hupp, 23, and mother of two, told Photography is Not a Crime that the cops weren’t even called to her family’s property in Parkersburg for a dispute involving a dog on May 9, 2015.
Instead, they were there to mediate a tiff between her stepfather-in-law and his neighbor.
In fact, they were the ones that called police in the first place.
Cook had just talked to her neighbor’s and had stepped onto her family’s property when Buddy began barking and approaching the officer, reaching the end of its chain.
That’s when Hupp’s husband, Ryan Hupp, 25, began recording.
“If it wasn’t for him recording, there’d be nothing,” Hupp said.
“He knew about police brutaty before I did. But that’s why the camera is shaking, because of the adrenaline. When they read those words ‘not guilty’, we were relieved. It’s hard to describe the feeling unless it’s actually happening to you. Justice is good, though.”
As Buddy approached and began barking at Cook, he pulled out his gun on the dog. And that’s when Hupp stood between the two.
Cook not only arrested her for obstructing, he also went inside her home and confiscated all of their electronic devices, including the phone used to record the arrest.
“After he put me in the patrol car and arrested me, he just walks up the trailer and up to the phones and, whatever devices were on chargers, he took them,” she said.
“He took my husband’s phone, he took my phone, he took my sister-in-law’s and my son’s tablet. And we don’t use those phones or tablets anymore. If my phone leaves my hands and goes into the hands of a cop, I kinda don’t trust that.”
After almost a month of constant calls to the police department, they returned her phones.
“Without that video, it’s just my word against a State Trooper. Nobody is going to believe my word over law enforcement,” she said.
Her phone was password protected, but they refused to return her phone unless she provided the password, which means they likely searched through it without a warrant.
“They confiscated the phone, they said, because there was probable cause for a crime. But there was no probable cause, and there was no crime,” said Hupp.
Hupp found herself disgruntled when her assigned public defender Lori Snodgrass insisted she take a plea deal.
“She just kept saying our best chances were to take a plea bargain. She kept saying I had to take a plea bargain or I might end up in jail for up to a year. I refused to take a plea to something I didn’t do. ”
She then began hearing rumors that Snodgrass was married to a West Virginia state trooper, which raised questions of a conflict of interest.
But it was PINAC investigator Felipe Hemming who discovered Bradley Snodgrass was Seth Cook’s boss.
“Talk about being a mouse in a trap,” Hupp said after learning of the conflict of interest.
After PINAC posted its story, Charleston attorney David Schles reached out to us and we put him in contact with Hupp.
Schles agreed to defend her pro bono after her crowd funding attempts to raise money for another attorney fell short.
“In my case, he said it was ridiculous that there was even a trial in the first place, especially when there’s a video of it. And when he saw the video, he thought something was wrong. And he saw the fact that I never did anything to the cop to be obstructing. I never touched him, never raised my hands at him and I didn’t curse at him.”
During the trial for her alleged crime, the Charleston prosecutor argued that Hupp was guilty of obstructing the officer because she did not listen to Cook when he told her to move.
Her attorney filed two motions to dismiss, but the judge denied both motions.
Only Cook testified for the state against Hupp, claiming he was only following training that required him to shoot all dogs that approach him.
“Cook was his own witness. But it didn’t even matter, because he lied the whole time. In his testimony, he said he wasn’t scared of the dog, but that they trained in police school to shoot the dog.”
According to Hupp, Cook also testified that she had a crossbow in her hand, which the video clearly shows isn’t the case. He also testified that she raised her hands at him, which the video also shows didn’t happen.
In the video, Cook grabbed Hupp by the arm and spins her around and she never raised her hands at him.
As of yet, Cook has not yet been charged with perjury.
“Thanks to the jury, some citizens have brains. Everything that Cook was saying when he testified was not matching up with the video. All we had was the video. We had several witnesses who were there all day, but we didn’t even need them there,” Hupp told PINAC.
The defense had several witnesses ready, but used only the video as their witness. The trial lasted six hours and the jury deliberated for only 30 minutes before returning a not guilty verdict.
Hupp said she plans to file a civil rights lawsuit but has been unable to find a civil attorney, so as we did last time, we will forward her the contact information for any attorney willing to take her case. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We asked Tiffanie Hupp if the incident changed her attitude about law enforcement.
“It’s been traumatizing for Ryan. He was frustrated this happened. It’s been traumatizing for my stepfather-in-law. When we see all these videos of bullying . . . I don’t want anyone to take anyone’s rights away–even in law enforcement. I have an issue with lying. When you listen to someone cross the line and add something that’s not in there, it makes me mad.”
The case against Hupp is one more example of how dysfunctional the state can be. The state is like a bully with Borderline Personality Disorder. When the state is in the wrong, it might come along and blame you in order to deflect blame from its own wrongdoings and guilt. Rarely, does the state come forward on its own and admit to its misdeeds.
And if Hupp does indeed end up filing a lawsuit, we can rest assured that the state will respond with a general denial and ask for a motion to dismiss.
The fact that this case even went to trial was probably more about appearing to be congruent after Hupp fired public defender Stodgrass and went with a private attorney.
Most likely, the state knew their chances at winning in a criminal case against Hupp were slim, but proceeded anyway in order to appear consistent when opposing a public defender with in-house ties versus a defense attorney with no ties to law enforcement.
We do want to thank David Schels for reaching out to us and following through on his promise to take her case pro bono.
Without him, she would likely have been convicted.