Jennifer Edwards Emmi goes to the pound for dangerous behavior
GOLDEN, Colorado–– Jefferson County First Judicial District Judge Randall C. Arp on August 16, 2021 sentenced pit bull defense lawyer Jennifer Reba Edwards Emmi, 43, to serve ten years in state prison, less 217 days for time already served, on nine felony counts in three separate cases, including stalking, retaliation against a witness or victim, felony menacing, and assault.
Jennifer Edwards, as she is now mostly known, is also to serve three years on probation after she is released.
Edwards on June 28, 2021 pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit second-degree murder of her former husband and his girlfriend, menacing, heat-of-passion strangulation, attempting to influence a judge, violation of a bail bond, retaliation against a witness, stalking, criminal mischief, reckless driving, tampering, and two counts of child abuse.
Eleven other felony counts and 12 misdemeanor charges were dismissed as part of a plea bargain.
The seven felony pleas were by themselves twice enough to send Edwards to prison for life as a habitual offender, under the Colorado “three strikes” law.
“Jenny Neurotic” v. “Joe Exotic “
But Edwards drew a markedly lighter sentence than did Joseph Maldonado Passage Schreibvogel, better known as “Joe Exotic,” who was convicted in January 2020 on 17 felony counts, the most serious of which involved allegedly trying to hire the killing of Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin.
Baskin had recently won a major trademark infringement case against “Joe Exotic.”
“Joe Exotic” was also convicted of “falsifying wildlife records and violating the Endangered Species Act for his role in trafficking and killing tigers,” summarized New York Times reporter Alyssa Lukpat.
Joe wins appeal; may get out at age 75
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit on July 14, 2021 upheld all of the convictions, but “ruled in favor of Maldonado-Passage’s appeal that his sentence was too long,” Lukpat wrote.
The appellate court ruled that U.S. District Court Judge Scott Palk should have combined Joe Exotic’s two murder-for-hire convictions at sentencing, instead of rendering sentencing separately on each count.
Had Palk combined the murder-for-hire counts, “Joe Exotic” might have been ordered to prison for “only” 17 and a half years, still a possible life sentence for the 58-year-old convict, who will be 75 when and if he serves his full term.
Edwards sought probation
Attorney Colin Bresee, representing Jennifer Edwards, asked that she be released on probation.
Edwards also pleaded for leniency, telling Judge Arp that she had struggled with serious mental health problems and an autoimmune disease since 2019, and took medication that altered her state of mind.
“I never wanted to kill anyone. I’m not capable of such a thing,” Edwards tearfully insisted, possibly providing a better explanation of why she tried to hire a killer than an alibi for having done it and having pleaded guilty to doing it.
“I did horrible things that were completely out of character, and I’m so embarrassed about them,” Edwards said.
Responded Arp, “You take almost no accountability for your actions and blame your husband and au pair. I believe you continue to pose a risk to the community and those victims, mostly because you’re blaming others, anything and anyone, rather than taking responsibility for your actions.”
“Caused significant trauma”
Said senior Jefferson County deputy district attorney Kate Knowles, “The defendant poses a threat to the health and safety of our community and caused significant trauma to the victims of her crimes. The court’s sentence ensures that they can move on with their lives.”
Arrested in late January 2021, Edwards, summarized Denver Post reporter Shelly Bradbury, “tried to hire a former [U.S. military] sniper and a ranch hand to kill her estranged husband’s new girlfriend and others, as part of a year-long campaign of harassment, stalking and threats, authorities alleged in a 33-page affidavit.”
Elaborated Jennifer Campbell-Hicks for 9 News in Denver, “The affidavit describes a pattern of harassment and stalking dating back to January 2019, when [Edwards’] husband said he caught her cheating and stated his intention to divorce. He backed off on a divorce when Emmi claimed multiple medical issues, none of which could be verified. They still separated and shared custody of their children, the affidavit says.
Threatened to kill children
“In September 2019, [Edwards] threatened to kill one of the children. She made threats again in December of that year,” Campbell-Hicks continued. “In early January 2020, she strangled one of the children when the child tried to call her father for help out of concern for how [Edwards] was behaving. Also that month, she held a knife to her husband’s throat at a family birthday celebration, according to the affidavit.”
Edwards and her former husband Donald T. Emmi were divorced on February 3, 2021, after a year of litigation.
Emmi is described on the HempNav web site as “a recognized expert in banking for the cannabis industry,”
Attacked dog laws & sued cops
Edwards, founder of a nonprofit entity called the Animal Law Center, in her professional capacity mostly attacked dangerous dog laws and sued police departments whose officers shot dogs in the line of duty.
Edwards in October 2009 won what she predicted would be a first step toward overturning the 1989 Denver pit bull ban when “an administrative judge ruled that Denver Animal Care and Control must remove the pit bull breed label from Kevin O’Connell’s dog,” summarized Denver Post reporter Jordan Steffen.
O’Connell contended the dog was a boxer mix.
Denver voters repealed the pit bull ban on November 4, 2020.
A month after winning the Denver case, Edwards won her first of several cases requiring police departments in to give officers training in “how dogs display stress, aggression and fear, taking cues from their mannerisms and postures,” summarized Denver Post reporter Victoria Barbatelli.
While the police departments in question appear to have welcomed the training, much of it was irrelevant to the sudden confrontations, usually also involving potentially armed human suspects, that typically lead to police officers shooting dogs.
“Bites are assumed risk of a vet tech”
Edwards in March 2010 won yet another problematic ruling for dog attack victims on behalf of Spork, a 17-pound, 10-year-old miniature dachshund who facially disfigured veterinary technician Allyson Stone in Lafayette, Colorado, a 15-year veteran of vet tech work.
Edwards argued that, “Bites are just an assumed risk of a veterinary technician. It’s the name of the game.”
Lafayette Municipal Judge Roger Buchholz recommended that “Excluding animal care workers from the vicious dog ordinance is a reasonable provision that the Lafayette City Council might want to consider.”
Edwards in May 2010 filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the pit bull bans formerly in effect in both Denver and Aurora, an adjoining suburb, which forced both cities to introduce exemptions on behalf of pit bulls claimed by their owners to be “service dogs.”
Edwards in March 2017 won a second case against the city of Aurora that obliged the animal control department to return a dog named Capone to residents Tito Serrano and Tracy Abbato, after DNA testing established that the dog––adopted from the Adams County animal shelter as a “German shepherd/Labrador mix”––was not legally a wolf or wolf hybrid.
Edwards lost her next round against the city of Aurora when in March 2018 a DNA test confirmed that a dog named Bandit who was impounded for biting a delivery driver was “100% American Staffordshire Terrier,” formerly one of the three pit bull types banned in Aurora, the city announced.
Bandit’s owner pleaded guilty, the city said, “to keeping an aggressive or dangerous animal; animal running at large; and possession of a restricted breed.”
Bandit was euthanized, but the much publicized case helped to build momentum toward the January 11, 2021 city council repeal of the Aurora pit bull ban, which had been affirmed in a 2014 referendum by 64% of the city electorate.
Edwards also represented animal owners in at least four high profile neglect cases, and a case in which the Colorado State Fair reinstated exhibition privileges to members of a Sedalia family whose two goats were disqualified after an unapproved growth stimulant was found in their food.