The defense rested on day four of the Vely versus Brown jury trial in District Court after presenting evidence that cast suspicion on the Velys for allegedly inciting Brown’s foxhounds to bark by attracting wildlife and playing recordings that stirred up the hounds. The defense also presented evidence supporting Brown’s counterclaim of defamation.
Plaintiffs in the case, Chris Vely and Laura Barton, filed a noise nuisance complaint against next-door neighbor Alison Brown. A counterclaim by Brown alleges that the Velys’ tactics were defamatory to her personally and to her foxhunt club, Headwaters Hounds LLC, including creating a Change.org petition containing disputed information about foxhunting.
The final day of testimony, presided over by District Court Judge Patrick Murphy, saw defense witnesses in tense exchanges and testy cross-examination by Randy Herrick-Stare, attorney for Vely and Barton. This included emotional exchanges between Herrick-Stare and Brown as he questioned why she lived at 11600 Antelope Road and queried her on foxhunting terminology, kennels, predator control, the Change.org petition, financials of Headwaters Hounds, methods she had tried to reduce noise, and why she didn’t have “cubbing” definitions on the Headwaters Hounds website.
During his questioning over how she worked with the dogs and trained them, Brown explained the connection between a master of hunt and her fox hound pack, “I love them, they’re like family. They’re a pack and I’m the leader of the pack.”
Herrick-Stare replied, “So are you a dog?”
Brown’s attorney, Charlie Cain, later referred to Herrick-Stare’s question, asking Brown, “Are you tired of being insulted?”
“Very much,” Brown responded.
Challenged about what she had done to try to alleviate the situation, Brown said she had explored every option that Vely suggested. On Sept. 12, 2016, Vely suggested building a berm and adding an acoustic fence to block sound. He wanted it done by Sept. 23 – 11 days.
The problem was elevation – the property flows uphill a quarter mile from Brown’s fence line. As an engineer, Brown analyzed it and discovered that, due to the elevation rise, the best place for the sound barrier would be on the Vely property on top of a natural land rise.
“A natural rise had a reasonable chance of success,” said Brown. “But they refused. They said it had to be on my parcel. I was getting to my wit’s end about what I could to do stop the complaints – I said I would do whatever I could, but I can’t change the laws of physics.”
Asked about triggers that would cause hounds to howl, she explained that when coyotes “sing” then the hounds tend to sing back. Other triggers are feeding time, knowing they are going to get taken out of the kennels, loaded into a trailer.
Asked about barking in the middle of the night, she said “you’d have to ask the hounds that.”
Brown said she was particularly offended by a note at the end of a response to one of her 2016 emails, where Vely had dropped comments into her email.
“His solution was build an inside kennel, move the dogs, build a house on your property, have a few horses, pour a glass of wine with your neighbors and enjoy the peace and quiet here. I was angry – he asked me to conform to his way of life when he wasn’t respecting mine. No, I was not willing to give up my foxhounds.”
Expert witness Pamela Buffington, a member of the Arapahoe Hunt with 47 years of foxhunting experience, on October 20, 2016 analyzed audio recording made by Vely. She identified repetitive coyote sounds that sounded too similar, she said, to be natural.
“They’re extremely similar to one another – it made me think it was some sort of an artificial mechanism that was used to make that sound. With actual coyotes, there is a lot of chatter. The one coyote makes a lot of different sounds. They can be repetitive, but not identical.
“There are electronic lures, a recording you can purchase off the (web)sites that create coyote sounds with different lures and artificial sounds. Just on one site there were 13 types of coyote lures. The hounds are trained to know when the sound is a coyote. … They’re aware of the sound of a coyote and if it is near. This is their job, this is what they do.”
Next, she played a portion of the October 20 audio, made after 8 p.m., in which a hunting horn can be heard. She identified the horn, noting that a recording of that sound can also be purchased online.
Asked about the combined effect of the lures, coyote sounds and horn, Buffington said the effect of a hunting horn on hounds is “like a 6 a.m. Reveille for humans. They are at attention. They are being told to wake up, pay attention, something is going on.”
The defense also presented evidence that Vely and Barton had sold scent lures – used by hunters to attract wildlife – on Salida Swap.
“Just because they are doing certain things on their property doesn’t mean they can’t be held liable for what they do,” said attorney Taylor Romero. “If they helped cause the noise nuisance, if they do it on the property – they are also at fault for the noises (the dogs) are making.”
The jury was released at 3:00 pm. Murphy followed with a general statement that a claim of substantial truth will be allowed for Brown’s defamation counter-suit. Closing statements will begin at 9 a.m. today, Friday July 13, with jury deliberation to begin Friday afternoon.