By Jamie Kelly, Missoulian
Mick Mee looks pretty good for a man whose appearance two weeks ago would have turned even a hardened stomach. The 59-year-old Milltown man slid a photo from a short stack of them on Thursday morning outside the Mineral County Courthouse.
"Even the ER doctor wouldn't touch it because he thought there was eye damage," said Mee, as he held the photo taken a short time after he was attacked by a pit bull. Today, Mee has a deep but healing fissure running from his left eye across his head from the 100 stitches he received.
On Thursday, Mee and his wife, along with two friends, sat in a courtroom here to watch a Missoula man plead guilty to taking the leash off his pit bull, which then charged into a campground and attacked a dog before clamping down on Mee's face. The charge was having a dog at large in a state campground.
Keegan Seth Ginther's dog went on the attack around 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Big Pine Campground on Fish Creek, bolting into the campsite set up by a dozen mushroom-gatherers having nightcaps around a fire.
At a short arraignment Thursday, Ginther pleaded guilty in front of Justice of the Peace Wanda James as Mee, his wife and two friends who witnessed the attack watched.
Ginther told the judge his 13-year-old pit bull had been playing with other dogs in his camping party, and so felt comfortable taking off the leash.
"My dog was playing and getting along with them, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt," he said.
Ginther's face showed his appreciation for what the judge told him next: "Just a few minutes is all it takes."
The pit bull wandered through the dark before it spotted a German shepherd sleeping by a campfire, about 200 yards from where Ginther and others had set up camp.
The pit bull charged the sleeping dog and attacked furiously as the campers tried desperately to get it off. That's when it turned on Mee, who was holding a miniature Maltese.
Mee thinks the pit bull got in two good bites to his face. His friend and fellow mushroom enthusiast Larry Evans, who was present at Thursday's hearing, applied a choke hold that subdued the dog.
Meanwhile, Mee and his wife hit the highway for St. Patrick Hospital, Mee holding a cold pack on his face.
The Mineral County deputy who responded to the 9-1-1 call ordered Ginther to put the pit bull in his truck. But he could issue no citation because Mineral County has no animal-control laws on the books. The state does, however, and because the campground is state-owned, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officer issued a citation the following Monday.
On Thursday, Keegan said he was pleading guilty to take full responsibility for the attack.
James ordered him to keep the pit bull in his control at all times. A sentencing date will be scheduled for some time in the next three weeks.
James warned him that money, not jail, should be his primary concern.
"I think the major thing we're looking at here is restitution," she said.
After the hearing, Mee estimated his medical expenses from that night to be about $1,600. Beyond that, he's not looking to line his pockets.
"I want this all settled without lawyers," he told the Missoulian. "We're not looking for any monetary gain on this."
Mee said he appreciated that Ginther pleaded guilty.
"He definitely did the right thing today," he said.
At the hearing's conclusion, James advised the defendant about another "right thing" to do before he is sentenced.
"If you have a statement for the court to the victim, that would be a good time to give it," she said.