Prosecutors said all the sidebar issues of money, hoarding and vendettas should be ignored and asked the judge to focus solely on the suffering of horses under Beth Lynne Hoskins’ care.
The defense attorney contended that Hoskins is the victim of overzealous animal rights crusaders trying to use the case to rewrite the rules on how animals are treated.
Hoskins faces 74 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, dating to March 2010, when the SPCA removed 73 Morgan horses she owned from her 50-acre East Aurora farm. The animals were described as underfed, underwatered, lacking in exercise and medical care, and living in filth.
In his summation Friday in Aurora Town Court, prosecutor Michael Drmacich skimmed over issues that he categorized as irrelevant in the case, including whether Hoskins’ alleged mistreatment of her horses was deliberate or neglectful, whether the conditions of her barns and stables were due to a lack of resources or “plain laziness,” and whether the defendant had a hoarding problem.
“It doesn’t matter why this happened,” Drmacich told Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky, who is hearing the case without a jury. “We have proven that there was inadequate food and water, that there was neglect. … That these animals suffered.”
“I’m not using that as the general term ‘suffered from,’ ” Drmacich said, “I’m using it in the literal sense: They suffered.”
He listed eight areas in which Hoskins, who had promoted her farm as a breeding place for high-end Morgans, had allegedly failed her animals. He said that his witnesses found multiple forms of neglect evident in every horse.
Hoskins’ attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, disputed the prosecution’s characterization of the horses’ condition, pointing out that none of the animals required treatment for lameness or any other serious condition after they were confiscated.
“This is really a debate between animal welfare people,” he said outside the courtroom. “They are wanting to raise the bar on the minimum standard of care, and they are using my client to do it.”
He argued that none of the prosecution witnesses had specific medical measurements that indicated abuse of the horses.
“There are no measurements, no math, no science,” he said. “The animals were taken before they were even seen.”
“They told her: ‘Forfeit your horses or be arrested,’ and Beth was the first person to stand up and say, ‘No, not without proof,’ ” Eoannou said.
After closing arguments, Marky said that he would not make a hasty ruling in the case. There is already before him a motion to dismiss the case from Hoskins, based on what she is calling prosecutorial misconduct. Marky said he will rule on that motion Tuesday and at that time will have a better idea on the timetable for his decision.
Forty of Hoskins’ horses have been returned to her; the remaining animals are still under SPCA care pending Marky’s ruling.