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Blake warned not to violate probation during animal abuse sentencing in Superior Court

Receives suspended jail time, but has many conditions to meet By KLAS STOLPE

Posted: April 30, 2011 - 11:05pm
Gastineau Humane Society employee Monica Puustinen holds "Carley," one of the 17 cats rescued from a van last December and now available for adoption. "Carley" has magical blue eyes and likes to hug according to the GHS staff. A majority of the cats in the recent animal abuse by neglect trial are healthy enough for adoption now.   Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Gastineau Humane Society employee Monica Puustinen holds "Carley," one of the 17 cats rescued from a van last December and now available for adoption. "Carley" has magical blue eyes and likes to hug according to the GHS staff. A majority of the cats in the recent animal abuse by neglect trial are healthy enough for adoption now.

The Juneau woman found guilty by jury trial April 11, 2011 for animal abuse by neglect, a Class B Misdemeanor, directed a verbal tirade at a city attorney in Juneau Superior Court on Friday before her sentencing hearing began.

Christian Blake stood up and pointed a cell phone camera at the gallery, taking photos of Gastineau Humane Society employees and media and then began shouting accusations at attorney August Petropulos prior to Judge Philip Pallenberg entering the courtroom.

Blake also snapped a photo of Petropulos before saying he made fraudulent claims, that no two of his witnesses said the same thing, and that the FBI are a bit behind in reviewing his records and she will contact the State police.

“You have no conscience August,” Blake screamed before being warned three times by the court clerk. Blake’s guilty findings stemmed from a Dec. 17, 2010 welfare check on her van by the Juneau Police Department that revealed she was living with 17 cats in unsanitary conditions.

As Friday’s hearing began Blake stated she had been threatened while leaving the library the previous night while preparing for the case and that JPD officers did not want to take the report.

Blake than raised her voice at Pallenberg stating she has lost two thirds of her income.

“Look at me,” Blake said. “I am a 54-year-old woman. Look at what you are hurting.”

Blake stated her treatment was, “Very similar as to the way black people were treated in the south in the 50’s.”

Pallenberg stopped Blake as she began repeating the facts of the case over and over.

“I am going to proceed in this case like I have done every other case before me,” Pallenberg said.

Blake said she objected and that there was no relevance as to the issue of cats in her van the night in question.

Petropulos called GHS director Chava Lee to the stand as part of the cities sentencing statement.

Lee said that the burden of keeping the cats over the next year is more than $300 a day and has amounted to more than $40,000. The cost is not borne by CBJ or animal control but by the GHS, a nonprofit. Lee said the cats now have access to natural light, fresh air, and a variety of rooms to be free in but are taking up available space. That space is expected to be filled by the amount of unwanted cats and kittens that will be brought in over the next months.

Lee stated that kennel staff has done an incredible job keeping up with the amount of cleaning involved in sanitizing each room the cats are moved to when visitors arrive. Lee also said their age will make it difficult for them to be adopted, but 14 of the original 17 have been nursed back to health and are now adoptable.

“Despite the fact the cats are in a better place they do need to be in a home where a person can love and care for them,” Lee said.

Lee also stated that the GHS and their vets have been receiving daily threats from Blake, some on their personal phones.

The city played recordings in which Blake is heard exclaiming the GHS was committing crimes against humanity and will be prosecuted. Blake said Lee had stolen her charity, lied repeatedly.

Lee stated that this was how GHS began every day, “By listening to Christen Blake verbally abuse and threaten us.”

Lee told Pallenberg that there is no reason at all for Blake to contact them after this. Lee said as the executive director of GHS for 11 years she has visited dozens of humane societies across the U.S.

“We have different beliefs and faiths,” Lee said. “But when we walk through the doors we have one common goal to provide the best care for our animals.”

Blake said that GHS wanted to throw her cats in the Southeast Alaska forests. Lee responded by saying cats deemed feral by veterinarians would be set up in a colony and managed by the GHS and other individuals.

Blake requested that the courtroom go over to look at her cats. After repeated interruptions of Lee by Blake and Blake’s claims of Lee euthanizing her cats Pallenberg stated, “I am giving you three strikes. If you interrupt her three times the cross examination is over.”

Blake again asked that the court go as a group to look at the cats and Pallenberg again denied that motion.

Blake next began saying her own attorney has been more of a distraction

“I am going through so much pain,” Blake said. “Right now to sit in a room with a judge who has allowed lairs to take the stand. Do you take people from Hurricane Katrina and ask them about the health of their cats?”

Petropulos’ sentencing recommendation was for Blake to forfeit all cats, kennels, cat traps, not possess any animals for the term of probation, have an assessment by Juneau Alliance for Mental Health, Inc (JAMHI), no contact with the city law department except in writing, no contact with the humane society, period, or its workers, a restitution to be determined later, 90 days in jail all suspended, three years probation and a $500 fine, all suspended.

“Because of her strong belief in her love for her cats, she will be right back at it unless there is some deterrent,” Petropulos said.

Blake said she and her cats have gone through a lot together and are trusting in God.

“I learned more in a vehicle with the cats than I have anywhere else,” Blake said. “God wants something to be shown through this. People came to this state in covered wagons, tramped through the snow… you might call me mentally ill but what is ill is that we are even having this conversation”

Blake asked that Pallenberg consider her humanitarian work.

“You can call a halt to this and return my cats,” Blake said. “If that is not workable then allow me to appeal and go to another court. I could go to another state and litigate this in court. I can’t crawl into your head and prove to you I am a good person. I am asking that you show me a little dignity, if some good can come out of my work than let me continue to do it.”

Pallenberg asked that Blake rest her statements or be forcibly removed.

“I ask that you give me a little decency,” Blake said. “You cannot see any good coming out of this by prosecuting. If you see a possibility of good coming out of my work than allow me to continue to do it.”

Pallenberg said the legal system allows people to say any vile or viscous thing about another person and Blake had the liberty to do that.

“A lot of this comes down to that Miss Blake gives a description of events that is different from what I heard from every other person who testified,” Pallenberg said. “It is always difficult to judge conflicting testimony. It is easier to dissolve those discrepancies when one person who gives those accounts has also given descriptions of events that have played out in the courtroom in front of me and that description is completely divorced from reality. And I heard one account after another of things that happened in court, of what was testified to and what photographs looked like, things that I said or lawyers said, which is almost invariably entirely different from what I observed.”

Pallenberg stated that Blake was not perceiving reality accurately and not describing past events accurately. Pallenberg said he could either conclude that there was a massive conspiracy consisting of the CBJ Law Department, Harbor Department, Animal Control, JPD, and GHS, or that Blake was not relating to the events.

“There is no question in my mind that Miss Blake suffers from a mental illness that causes her to describe events differently from the way they actually happened,” Pallenberg said. “I am willing to believe she is not lying but her perceptions are different to an extent that one can only describe them as paranoid.”

Pallenberg stated that a jury heard the evidence and after a fair trial concluded that Blake was guilty of cruelty to animals and the things Blake has pointed to as alleged flaws in the proceedings is not an accurate depiction of the evidence presented.

“I think that Miss Blake hears things she wants to hear and that can clearly be attributed to a mental illness,” Pallenberg said. “She perceives that she was rescuing cats when she was imprisoning cats in appalling conditions. Certainly this is not the worst case of animal cruelty I have seen but this is the worse neglect case. I think the cats have suffered enough and they deserve to move on to something other than life in dark dank kennels, laying in their own filth, breathing rancid air.”

Pallenberg sentenced Blake to 90 days in jail with 90 suspended, a $500 fine, all suspended, and probation for five years. Conditions of probation were to violate no laws, not to enter GHS property or contact GHS or its officers or employees, and their immediate families, but to walk away if seeing them, and to have no contact with the CBJ law department except in writing. Pallenberg ruled that the cats, cat traps and kennels are forfeited, and that Blake cannot possess any animal unless she first completes a court approved mental health evaluation.

“It is okay to be angry, everyone has a right to be angry,” Pallenberg said. “It is not okay to be threatening and abusive, the phone calls I heard were threatening and abusive. This is a sad case. I don’t doubt Miss Blake feels a strong love for these cats and thought she was rescuing them. This case has been a little bit like watching a car crash and I was watching Miss Blake unravel.”

Pallenberg did rule that Blake can watch people’s pets or walk their pets if the owners consent, but cannot possess pets in her home or vehicle during her probation. After probation she must have a city accepted mental health evaluation if she is going to have pets. Pallenberg also said restitution would be counter productive as she has no income.

“Conditions are imposed for good reasons,” Pallenberg said to Blake. “If there are other violations I will put you in jail. These are important conditions.”

Blake stated that Pallenberg said she would suffer abuse from this trial and asked how she could seek help from the Police Department if they did not keep records of her and they scream at her.

“Once again, characterizing things I have said in court, your words are different from what I have used,” Pallenberg said.

Blake can file an appeal to the District Court within 15 days or the Superior Court within 30 days.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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