It is way past time to put the whip to this thing.
The speed of horses is tracked on a racing form. Measuring the speed with which the notorious Beth Hoskins horse case has progressed requires multiple calendars. Glaciers move with more haste.
The animal-cruelty case against Hoskins involves her alleged mistreatment of 74 Morgan horses. Yet the criminal and civil cases have proceeded at the slow-motion pace of a grizzled plow-puller headed for the glue factory.
March 18 marks the third anniversary of the SPCA raid on the Curtis Screw heiress’ Aurora horse farm. SPCA officials say that some of the horses were starving and thigh-deep in manure. Fifty-one cats were found in a urine-soaked 10-by-12-foot shed.
What looked like a simple, sad case of animal hoarding has turned into a marathon legal absurdity. I know that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but it is time that an overly indulgent judge knocked the rust off of the gears.
The Nuremberg Trials didn’t take this long. This is a perfect storm involving a deep-pocketed defendant in apparent denial, an overly accommodating judge in Douglas Marky and the slow churn of a town court. Prosecutors put a reasonable misdemeanor plea deal on the table two years ago.
“It would be inappropriate, if not foolish, for me to comment on the speed with which the court has proceeded,” said Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, his voice rising, “particularly when we have an ongoing trial.”
The only one popping corks as the third anniversary nears is Thomas Eoannou, the latest in a line of defense attorneys. He usually takes on bigger fish than animal-cruelty cases, but presumably does not mind having a persistent, check-writing client on the hook. Hoskins is the daughter of the founder of Curtis Screw Co., which reportedly does $68 million in annual business. It may be awhile before the account for attorneys dries up.
The most recent of numerous postponements – virtually all of them requested by Hoskins (and routinely granted by Marky) – involved a 100-day break extended by the defendant’s health issues. The illness abated just as her doctors were instructed to make an explanatory court appearance. Whether Hoskins’ sudden return to health is attributable to a miracle cure or to medical science, the nonjury trial mercifully resumed this week.
The prosecution still has a couple of witnesses to call, after which the defense makes its case. If Vegas were placing odds, my guess is the over/under on a resolution would be 4 years. I’ll take the “over.”
It would all be absurdly amusing, if it were not so costly – in time and money – to the nonprofit SPCA Serving Erie County. Barbara Carr, the SPCA’s executive director, told me the agency may be out the hundreds of thousands of dollars it spent caring for Hoskins’ animals in the months after they were seized. She said Hoskins owes tens of thousands of dollars for subsequent care.
There is no dollar figure put on the time that SPCA officials set aside for postponed court dates.
“ ‘Inconvenience’ is too mild of a word,” Carr said. “In my opinion, it’s an abuse of the system.”
An abuse of the system? No animal with four legs and a mane would say neigh.