Gemini's story: A peacock, a school and a dilemma
● By J. Chambless
The owner of Gemini, a peacock, was charged with disorderly conduct when the bird was discovered defecating at the Bancroft Elementary School in New Garden Township on Sept. 8.
By Richard L. Gaw
By their nature, peacocks are polygamous, and usually form a harem that consists of between two and five females, called peahens. But Gemini, who lives on a 2.5-acre hobby farm on Bancroft Road in New Garden Township, had his life partner, and her name was Diana Prince.
When Diana and their babies were captured by a predator and killed earlier this year, Gemini began the peculiar practice of circling around the perimeter of the property. While it is known that peacocks act out their grief, his walks suggested an invisible wall of protection. In short, the world had taken away his mate, and Gemini wanted to shield himself away from any more harm.
Occasionally, Gemini would roam over the property's border to the nearby Bancroft Elementary School, to the constant objection of his owner, Winden Stathan Rowe, a Kennett Square counselor and the mother of two, who owns and provides food and shelter for hens and one more peacock in a barn-like structure behind her home.
On Aug. 2, an officer with the Southern Chester County Regional Police met Rowe in her driveway and issued her a warning: Gemini had been spotted on the school's property, defecating on one of its sidewalks. It wasn't the only time Gemini had made his presence known at Bancroft Elementary. On one occasion, he saw his reflection on a car parked in the school's parking lot. Thinking the reflection he saw was a potential predator, he threw himself against the vehicle. No charges were filed.
“I explained to the officer that I was aware that Gemini was going over there, and I told him that I agree that he shouldn't be,” Rowe said. “I explained that his mate had been killed, and that he's simply attempting to define and protect his territory.”
The officer told Rowe that if the bird was found wandering again on school property, he would be forced to issue her a citation for disorderly conduct. Under “Crimes and Offenses” in Commonwealth law, Section 5503 states that a person is guilty of the offense if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk, he or she engages in fighting or threatening and tumultuous behavior; makes unreasonable noise; uses obscene language or makes an obscene gesture; or creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition.
This was a simple case of determining whether the punishment fit the crime. According to the police citation, it did, stating that Rowe allowed her peacock to defecate at the school and cause a physically offensive condition.
“I asked him, 'Why are you giving me this charge, when it involves an animal?'” Rowe said. “He told me, 'Well, I don't know what else to write this up as. There's no law regarding peacocks.' I then asked, 'What happens when a dog gets loose?' He said, 'That's called Dog at Large, so I suggested that's what I should be charged with.”
The timing of the warning could not have been any worse for Rowe; she was in the final stages of compiling three-and-a-half years of documentation and paperwork to send to the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Work, in order to apply for her licensure. A blemish like this on her record could affect the outcome of her application.
Five weeks went by without further incident. Gemini remained on the farm. He was kept in his barn, where he kept the hens company.
Late in the evening of Friday, Sept. 7, a storm swept over southern Chester County. Rowe awoke to the distinctive chortle of Gemini outside her home. Early in the morning, she went outside to check on the status of the peafowl and hens. One by one, she put all of them back in the barn. Rowe wondered if, during the storm, Gemini had ventured over to the school again, but she saw no sign of him having left the property.
On Monday, Sept. 10, she was returning from an early-morning fitness program with her father when she received a phone call from her sons, telling Rowe that there was a policeman in the driveway.
“I asked my kids what they did,” she said. “They responded, 'Well, it's more of what you did.'”
Rowe was informed that early on the morning of Sept. 8, Gemini wandered over to the school again, and defecated on the school's sidewalk. Rowe was charged with disorderly conduct, and was fined $185.
Immediately, she paid the fine to the Chester County District Court, and on Nov. 7 at 9:45 a.m., she appeared in Magisterial District Court in Kennett Square, with District Judge Matthew Seavey presiding over Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Winden Stathan Rowe.
“I thought, 'I have been locked into a twilight zone,'” she said. “I couldn't believe I was here for this. Maybe I don't see the world the same way the world sees itself. Maybe I'm not evolving as quickly, but the whole time I kept thinking, 'This is literally all over a bird.'”
And, looming over everything was the glut of papers and forms that Rowe had recently sent off to Harrisburg.
Seavey offered Rowe two options: A 90-day continuance, whereby the charges would likely be dropped if Rowe were deemed to be a responsible pet owner during that time period; or she could request a hearing. Realizing that the charge would remain on her record for the next three months, Rowe chose the hearing.
The summary trial revealed a crowded judge's chambers. Also present were two officers from the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department; Dr. Michael Barber, assistant superintendent for the Kennett Consolidated School District; Leah A. McComsey, principal of Bancroft Elementary School, and the head of technology for the school district.
Rowe was declared guilty.
In an effort to erase the disorderly conduct charge, Rowe has hired West Chester attorney Gary Katz to appeal her case to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. While the trial awaits a date, the story of Gemini the peacock has gone viral, having been reported on CBS-3 Philly, on Phillyvoice.com, on Twitter, and in the Dec. 6 edition of The Washington Post.
The door of the barn where Rowe keeps Gemini and his mates blew off again during a windstorm at the end of November, but it has been fixed, and all of the pens have been confirmed to be secure. For the moment, Gemini has been on good behavior, and no other incidents at the school have been reported.
Meanwhile, a friend of Rowe's has offered to take Gemini.
“As I've said many times before, I am not in disagreement with being charged,” Rowe said. “Should I be in trouble? Sure. Should I have a disorderly conduct charge against me? Absolutely not.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L.
Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.