PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Joy Braunstein had no comment after hearing a judge drop harassment charges against three defendants.
An online reaction to her decision to privately purchase a thousand-dollar pure bred puppy from a breeder led to calls for her resignation and posts saying it was the height of hypocrisy to be the face of an organization that promotes adoption to purchase a dog from a breeder.
She resigned. But she tearfully testified the Facebook dialogue went beyond that, and she felt unsafe seeing posts that she said made her feel unsafe. She claimed one post suggested she commit suicide.
But none of the defendants directly threatened her, ruled District Judge Randy Martini, and he threw out the harassment charges.
“I’m happy with the result,” said defendant Diane Bandy. “I’m actually embarrassed for Joy Braunstein but you know I’m happy with the result.”
The woman who started the petition said even if others went overboard, she had no intention of threatening Braunstein.
“Absolutely not,” said defendant Tara Vybiral. “I encourage everyone to look, I encourage everyone to read it. At no point in time have I ever posted anything threatening about Ms. Braunstein, her family, her dog, anything of the like. Her complaint was that she took offense with something that somebody else unrelated to me posted onto my page,” she said.
It was a summary offense hearing but all three defendants had lawyers. Attorney Wendy Williams, who says she is an animal lover, donated her services, seeing this as a first amendment issue.
“Sometimes lawyers just have to be the bigger person and step into the ring and help somebody out that really needs help,” Williams said.
But the judge said he’ll keep this case open for 120 days. Provided there are no more mentions of Bruanstein on Facebook by these defendants, he’ll permanently drop all charges. Otherwise he’ll impose a $300 fine plus court costs.