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Three Dog Night : Ex-Mayor and His Neighbor Square Off on 'People's Court'

September 22, 1988|BERKLEY HUDSON | Times Staff Writer

The announcer for "People's Court" referred to the matter before Judge Joseph A. Wapner as the case of the Three Dog Night.

Cam Briglio, who once served as Monterey Park's mayor and developed a reputation as a rough-and-ready sort of guy, faced the television judge with neighbor, Gerry Williams.

The two had come to a Hollywood studio courtroom to settle their dispute over a dead cat named Mama Kitty.

"Let's watch, as Judge Wapner hears the testimony in this rather unfortunate situation," the announcer continued in his buildup on the case, which aired locally last Friday and was distributed to 175 television markets nationally.

Commotion Heard

With his son Patrick by his side, Williams, a sturdy, red-faced man dressed in a blue polo shirt, recounted his story.

Late one night last spring, Williams said, he and his family heard a loud commotion in the back yard of their house on Orange Avenue. Williams and his son Patrick ran outside, and right by the diving board of the swimming pool Briglio's three dogs had the cat cornered.

The cat, big and black, had been a pet since 1973, four or five years after the Briglios moved into the triplex they built next to the Williamses.

"(The dogs) are just tearing her to pieces," Williams said.

This was not the first time a Briglio dog had killed a Williams cat, Williams testified, referring to a pet that died earlier this year at his mother-in-law's house next door.

As Williams complained that Briglio violated the city's leash laws, a somber-faced Briglio and his wife, Ann, listened. Because Briglio had been on the City Council until he was defeated in April, Williams claimed, city officials ignored complaints about Briglio's dogs.

Eventually, Briglio had his say.

"We were watching television in the rumpus room," Briglio said, when Patrick Williams called shortly before midnight. "He said my dogs killed his cat. I said: 'Impossible. They're right here.' "

Briglio displayed color photographs of the three dogs, each of them strays and mixed breeds that have settled at 629 S. Orange Ave. in the last four to five years. The images of Ju-Ju, a low-slung black-and-white terrier; Squirt, part Husky, and Smoky, part shepherd and part Doberman, filled the screen.

Soon, the silver-haired Wapner, a retired Los Angeles County judge, was ready to issue his ruling.

"If the defendants' dogs were in the plaintiff's yard, then the defendant was negligent. The testimony was clear and convincing," he said, finding in favor of Williams. Briglio owed $197, the amount of the veterinarian's charges for the unsuccessful operation to save the cat.

"So," the announcer summed up, "Judge Wapner feels that the defendant's dog did the dirty deed. The defendant, Mr. Briglio has just come out of the courtroom. . . . They accused you of trying to pull strings because you are the former mayor. What is your response?"

"These people have been giving us trouble for the last 20 years," Briglio said. "We obstructed their view and it's been a continuous feud."

The Final Say

Ann Briglio had the final say. "It just shows you how some can lie and do it well."

Then the announcer interviewed Williams. "This guy is amazing. He turns these dogs loose every day, every night. I don't think he owns a leash."

Case closed.

Well, not quite.

"I think Judge Wapner didn't hear a word I said," Briglio said in an interview Monday. "It's all a phony."

Briglio maintains that the edited version of the show deleted important information, making him and his wife look foolish.

A key issue, Briglio said, involves the stockade fence surrounding the Williams' pool and back yard. During the taping of the show in June, both Briglio and Williams agree, the fence was discussed with Williams suggesting that Briglio's dogs jumped it.

As he held the smallest of the dogs, Ju-Ju, in his arms Monday, Briglio recalled: "I said (to Wapner), 'How could this little one jump a 5-foot fence?' (Wapner) said, 'Maybe they jumped on one another's backs.' "

But it was Ju-Ju who held on to Mama Kitty the longest, Williams said in an interview.

Regardless, he said, he doesn't know for sure how the dogs got into his yard. All he knows is that they were there and that the killers weren't coyotes, as Briglio suggests.

However, Briglio said police have told him of numerous reports of coyotes attacking cats in the city, including a killing reported shortly after the incident with the Williams cat.

The show provides $500 if the judgment is less than that amount. The judgment is subtracted from the $500 and given to the winner. The two parties then split the remainder.

Under that arrangement, Williams received $348.50. Briglio was due $151.50, but said he hasn't been paid.

A publicist for the show said that as far as she knows, checks have been sent.

Briglio jokingly says that if he doesn't get the check, he may just have to see Wapner again--this time with the judge as the defendant.

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