The 74-count animal-cruelty case against Beth Lynne Hoskins will not be dismissed.
The Aurora town justice presiding over Hoskins’ animal-cruelty trial denied a motion to drop the case on the grounds that an alleged romantic relationship between a prosecutor and an SPCA investigator during the trial has compromised court proceedings.
Town Justice Douglas W. Marky did not accept the allegation of prosecutorial misconduct, which Hoskins said was caused by a relationship between Assistant District Attorney Matthew A. Albert, one of two prosecutors in the case, and SPCA employee Alex Cooke during part of the nonjury criminal trial he conducted.
The nearly packed courtroom heard back-and-forth arguments between the District Attorney’s Office and Hoskins’ attorney on this matter, John P. Bartolomei, for about an hour before Marky announced his decision.
Hoskins’ parents, Susan and John Hoskins; her brother, John Jr.; and her daughter, Alexandria, attended the hearing.
Albert sat silently at the prosecutor’s table, while Cooke, dressed in her SPCA uniform, sat with her parents a few rows behind him.
While Marky said the issue or appearance of impropriety is “certainly something we should all be concerned about,” he said that after reading cases and their correlating circumstances cited by Bartolomei, he did not see those cases “as being right on point” with Hoskins’ allegation. In some ways, though, they were “similar,” Marky said.
“I don’t see this relationship as being in some ways … a relationship that is out there for the public to know about – that the motion should be granted,” Marky said.
Prosecutor Nicholas Texido, who defended Albert and argued on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office, said in court that the relationship between Albert and Cooke ended in March, shortly after Bartolomei contacted the District Attorney’s Office.
Texido summed it up as a short, four-month relationship between a prosecutor and someone who was not a witness in the case.
The prosecutor said that there was no legal basis for the motion and that to say the relationship undermined the criminal-justice system was a “stretch.”
Afterward, Bartolomei said he will appeal Marky’s denial of the dismissal motion.
“Ms. Hoskins is entitled to have impartiality by the district attorney. That has been shaken,” he said. He also noted that five of Hoskins’ 30 horses are boarded at Cooke’s parents’ stables and that Hoskins pays the couple as part of bond requirements for horse care.
“Alex Cooke is an agent of the SPCA. The SPCA is the complainant” in the case, Bartolomei argued in court.
Hoskins was clearly disappointed by the judge’s ruling.
“I feel the motion to dismiss had a lot of merit,” she said outside the courtroom.“I feel the public’s confidence should be eroded by this.
Hoskins defended her care of her large herd; 40 horses have been returned to her. The SPCA Serving Erie County still is caring for 30 others, and Hoskins says three others died under the agency’s care.
Hoskins insisted that she did not commit any crimes involving her horses and called allegations of malnourishment involving her horses “absurd.”
Marky said he plans to issue a verdict by late June or before July 4 on the 74 misdemeanor counts stemming from the SPCA raid on Hoskins’ horse farm more than three years ago.