By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
There is no chipping away at even the most far-fetched of Burgess' beliefs.
Told that the beef most Arizonans had with FEMA is that the federal relief agency was not very efficient during the flooding of the Colorado River, Burgess has a ready reply. FEMA wasn't efficient, she says, because disaster aid isn't actually its job; that's just a cover story. FEMA is really set up to take over the country.
Given how strongly she feels, it is only natural to wonder what she would do to advance the militia agenda as an elected official. She replies in an instant.
"I would fire Harry Craig if I could," she says, referring to the town attorney. "I would fire his ass in a second, and he knows it."
Cheryl Burgess' war with the town attorney shows, once again, that all politics is local, even constitutional politics involving an international banking conspiracy and U.N. troops.
Burgess' ongoing legal battle with Craig is the longest-running courtroom drama in the history of Wickenburg, a town founded in 1909.
They are fighting over Cheryl's dogs.
Like a refugee from a George Booth cartoon in the New Yorker, Burgess' life is covered in dog hair. She favors chows, husky-looking brutes that lean to matted fur and slobber. Her official town council portrait in Town Hall shows Cheryl with a large red example of the species.
The other 40-some dogs she is alleged to have kept at one time or another in her downtown apartment did not sit for the photographer.
Burgess has been found guilty on 12 of 13 counts lodged against her by Craig. All of these convictions--dogs running wild, no tags, operating an unlicensed kennel--are on appeal. In nearby Yarnell Justice Court, she pleaded guilty to three of the 14 dog counts lodged against her in that jurisdiction over the operation of a kennel. During the Memorial Day weekend, more charges were lodged in Wickenburg.
Burgess has fought these cases with rabid fury. She has fought these cases on constitutional grounds and any other ground that would provide momentary footing.
She questioned her elderly neighbor, Emma McCandless, who filed the original complaint, about the physics of dog barking, demanding to know the elevation in feet between their two yards, linear distance and the speed with which a dog yap travels.
"Your dogs run wild when they get out," an exasperated McCandless told the court. "They run all over the neighborhood. They attack other dogs, and they are constantly in our yard going to the bathroom on our tires, barking at us. We can't even go out in our backyard."
McCandless, who retired to Wickenburg with her sick husband for peace and quiet, kept a three-month log registering barking dogs, incessantly barking dogs, at all hours of the night and early morning. She and her husband noted in their written victim's report that the stench was overwhelming.
Burgess told the court that people lurked in her bushes, that neighborhood boys broke into a nearby restaurant, stole steaks and flipped the meat to her dogs. "Even recently, someone had opened my gate there. There's lots of strange things going on for someone wanting my dogs to run, wanting these things to happen. Because I don't believe these things are accidental things."
Craig was not moved by the case Burgess presented, telling the judge, "I think the court can very well discount Ms. Burgess' testimony, because it is disjointed, confused, and maybe her memory is gone, or maybe, actually, she's falsifying it."
Burgess filed a bar complaint, which was dismissed, accusing Craig of altering evidence.
She also introduced into the court records the constitutional arguments that are the bedrock of her militia faith.
Burgess and her colleagues believe that as free people, Americans are not subject to licenses, that only slaves need permits from the states.
She does not need a driver's license, a car registration or a marriage license. And she certainly does not need dog tags.
"I'm not a 14th Amendment citizen," Burgess told the court. "I am simply an inhabitant of the state of Arizona . . . and therefore the statutes and laws as presented in these ordinances do not even apply to me."
This argument has yet to find favor with a judge.
Burgess also claimed Arizona's dog laws were unconstitutional because the state legislature that passed the statute contained lawyers.
Burgess and her militia colleagues view the bar as another secret society. Bar members stand in open defiance of the Constitution, she claims, because they have accepted titles of English nobility--esquire and squire--a legal insult to common law.
While Burgess was educating the local judiciary, Channel 12 aired an investigation on problem kennels whose slovenly practices inadvertently promote inbreeding and disease.
Though Burgess was not identified by name, her operation, including "an obviously sick dog" with a persistent mange problem, was highlighted in the on-air segment.
The television reporter counted "15 to 20 dogs in and around the apartment" and another 25 out at her kennel.
To Cheryl Burgess, the problem is not her dogs. The problem is government regulations that hound a person to distraction. Burgess does not need to look over her shoulder for black helicopters; she has Harry Craig.