The Associated Press

HILLSIDE, N.J. Call it poetic justice. With a rhyme and some reason, animal cruelty charges against a gardener who killed a rat were dropped on Wednesday.

About 100 supporters clapped and cheered when the judge cleared Frank Balun after a brief hearing.

Here's how prosecutor Christopher Howard asked the judge to drop the charges:

"The crime of the year hit the media with a rush and a blaze, knocking O.J. from the headlines for the next 14 days ...

Based on the facts and the law please dismiss the charge ...

because the killing of a rat by this man of this repute,

the state concludes does not fall within the criminal statute."

Municipal Court Judge Albert Parsonnet concurred, adding that he was dismissing the charge based on a state statute that allows people to destroy vermin that are damaging their crops or livestock.

Balun, 69, didn't speak at the hearing. Afterwards, he said he just wanted things to get back to normal.

"This got kind of old after a while," he said.

Balun set caught the rat in a squirrel trap after realizing it was eating his tomato plants. He whacked it with a broom handle when it poked out its nose.

Balun got in trouble when he called an officer from the Associated Humane Societies to get the carcass. The officer took the rat's picture and left with it in the cage.

Executive Director Lee Bernstein issued Balun two summonses when he came to the agency to get the trap back. Each summons carried a penalty of up to six months in jail and $1,250 in fines.

Earlier this month, Union County Prosecutor Andrew Ruotolo Jr. asked local officials to dismiss the charge, saying the matter was beneath the legal process. Read Next Article