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Animal Rights Activist On Trial for Hitting Hunters

October 2, 1985

WAREHAM, Mass. (AP) _ Two hunters claim it was assault and battery, but Dorothy Checchi-O’Brien says she was just trying to protect a flock of geese she’d been feeding for a decade when she confronted the men last winter.

Mrs. Checchi-O’Brien, 54, an animal rights activist from Plymouth, is on trial in Wareham District Court on charges she screamed obscenities at hunters Michael Veloza and Steven Tyler, then pummeled their chests with her fists.

The jury trial, which began Tuesday, was scheduled to resume today.

The Plymouth hunters and Mrs. Checchi-O’Brien agree that she first confronted them last Dec. 8 as they shot at birds on Ship Pond near her home.

She testified Tuesday she blew a police whistle from her back porch to get their attention, then yelled to the two men that they weren’t allowed to hunt because the birds had been ″baited,″ or fed.

When the hunters returned two days later, both sides agree, she screamed again from her porch, then she and her husband, John O’Brien, confronted them near the pond and angrily told them to leave.

Mrs. Checchi-O’Brien, a 4-foot-11, 110-pound former nun, said she called the hunters murderers and slaughterers and may have used some mild swear words. She said she shoved Tyler and threatened to smash the windows in Veloza’s truck, but denied touching Veloza.

″I was angry that they were shooting the geese I have been feeding for 10 years. Just to get rid of them, I said, ’I’m going to smash every window in your truck,‴ she said. ″I had no intention of smashing their windows. I wouldn’t do something like that. I don’t believe in violence.″

But Veloza, 32, and Tyler, 31, testified Tuesday that she used obscene language, pounded Tyler on the chest and back and beat her fists on Veloza’s chest for up to a minute before her husband told her, ″Dot, knock it off.″

″I couldn’t believe what was happening. This never happened before,″ said Tyler. ″I got the shells out of the gun and I tried to get away from that woman. The woman was pounding on my back. She was just swearing and flying off. I couldn’t believe it.″

She also tried to block the hunters’ truck as they left the pond, he said. ″She was standing in the middle of the road with her hands on her hips like, ’Go ahead, hit me.‴

Mrs. Checchi-O’Brien said she pushed Tyler in the chest because he appeared to be aiming his shotgun at her.

″I was frightened,″ she said. ″I thought of the John Wayne movies. Before you’re going to shoot someone, you pull something on your gun. So I pushed him.″

She denied pounding him on the back, however, saying, ″Oh God, no, I’m not crazy.″

Tyler and Veloza said they had valid licenses to hunt water fowl on Cape Cod Bay when they were confronted by Mrs. Checchi-O’Brien, whom they said they didn’t know. ″All we wanted was a goose for Christmas dinner, but we didn’t get any that day,″ Veloza said in an interview in January.

But Mrs. Checchi-O’Brien, who has participated in protests and lobbied at the Statehouse for a variety of wildlife protection bills, claimed the hunters were harassing her for what she called her ″pro-life positions.″

After her first warning, she said, ″any decent sportsman, if that’s what they were, would have gone away. What kind of fun could you have when everyone’s blowing whistles and yelling out you?″

Mrs. Checchi-O’Brien faces five years in prison and $1,000 in fines if convicted by the six-member jury of both counts of assault and battery.

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