Cable workers charged with dragging cat behind truck
By BRIDGET MURPHY Staff Writer, (609) 272-7257, E-Mail
ATLANTIC CITY - Two cable installers face animal-cruelty charges after police allegedly saw a cat tethered to the bumper of a cable-company truck and being dragged along at a high rate of speed as another truck from the same company drove behind it.
The Dec. 22 incident killed the adult cat and left it mutilated to the point that the animal's sex cannot be determined, police Sgt. Ken Brown said Monday.
Brown witnessed the incident on Route 30, while driving into the city shortly after 3 p.m. to work a uniformed security detail.
After first spotting the truck dragging the animal while on Route 30 in Absecon, the sergeant radioed to the Police Department and had a marked patrol car stop the cable trucks - both from Somers Point-based Ocean Cable Group - at Route 30 and Grammercy Avenue.
The cat was tied to the rear bumper of one truck by its neck with four feet of cable wire and one of its legs had snapped off, Brown said.
"I've seen some really bad things in my 27 years here, but this is up there," the Police Department veteran said Monday, soon after signing complaints against the drivers of both cable trucks. "To do something like this to an animal - it's despicable."
The animal's corpse is in a freezer at the county animal shelter, according to Nancy Beall, president of Atlantic County's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Police took photos of the animal and also kept the cable wire it was lashed to the truck with as evidence.
Authorities identified the driver of the truck that was dragging the cat as Robert Hewitt Jr., 28, of Hickory Lane in Egg Harbor Township, and the driver of the truck that was following him as Joseph M. Newton Jr., 25, of Maddox Run in Galloway Township.
Both face animal-cruelty charges, and Hewitt also faces a charge of inhumane treatment of an animal, police said Monday. Both charges are disorderly persons offenses.
The suspects are due to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 7, according to authorities.
Ocean Cable Group owner Bob Mills said Monday that he suspended Hewitt and Newton from their jobs and will fire them if they're found guilty of the offenses.
Mills, who has two pet cats himself, said his company does not condone such behavior as police are alleging and that nothing similar has ever happened in the past.
He said Hewitt and Newton had been working on jobs in Atlantic City that day. They had headed out to Galloway Township for a lunch break and were returning to the resort to continue working when police stopped their trucks.
Mills said he believes one worker may have tried to call the other with a Nextel phone to tell him about the animal dragging behind the truck, but that his phone didn't work.
"Both of them said they didn't know what was going on," Mills said Monday, adding that each employee had worked for him for a few years.
The business owner said some disgruntled former company employees also live in the area where his employees stopped for lunch and suggested that perhaps they could be involved in the incident.