Beth Lynne Hoskins says a private investigator she hired has evidence indicating that one of the prosecutors in her criminal trial on animal-cruelty charges and an SPCA investigator remain romantically involved, even after the judge in the case was told earlier this month that the liaison had ended in March.
The Aurora horsewoman is again insisting that the case should be thrown out of court because of what she terms prosecutorial misconduct by Assistant District Attorney Matthew A. Albert due to his relationship with Alex A. Cooke, an employee of the SPCA Serving Erie County, who has been very involved in the case but never testified in the trial.
Earlier this month, Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky refused to dismiss the criminal case despite Hoskins’ accusations.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office had clearly stated in court this month that the relationship between Cooke and Albert lasted from November to March.
The latest twist will force a delay in the verdict that Marky had planned to announce before July 4. The court must now first revisit Hoskins’ request to reargue the motion.
The issue resurfaced publicly Thursday – and in greater detail – when a thick stack of documents was filed in Aurora Town Court by Hoskins’ attorney, John P. Bartolomei, on the motion to renew her argument to have the criminal case dismissed.
Hoskins insists that the court was lied to about the status of Albert and Cooke’s relationship and believes it unfairly prejudiced the trial. The District Attorney’s Office insists otherwise and says it would never misrepresent something or lie to a court.
“I remain astonished and horrified that my daughter, my animals and my life have been held hostage at the mercy of people who clearly think they are above both the truth and the law,” Hoskins said in an interview. “The representations to the court were false by the District Attorney’s Office. … We feel that we’re being lied to.”
Hoskins said she believes that the court would have ruled differently and granted her original motion to have the charges dismissed against her had information about the continuing relationship been available. In court papers, Bartolomei says the relationship between Albert and Cooke is “still going strong.”
Meanwhile, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, who said he has not yet seen the new motion, said the real issue is not about Albert and Cooke.
“I can’t intelligently comment on a motion because I haven’t seen it yet, or read it,” Sedita said. “This case, in my mind, is not about the alleged love life of an assistant district attorney and a person who is not even a witness in the case. This case is about whether the defendant is guilty of animal cruelty.”
Prosecutor Nicholas Texido – who defended Albert in court in early June and argued against Hoskins’ first attempt to have the case dismissed – said in court at the time that the relationship between Albert and Cooke had ended in March, shortly after Bartolomei had contacted the District Attorney’s Office.
Thursday, Sedita said that there was no way Texido or his office would ever lie in court. “As far as we knew, their relationship was over at that time,” Sedita said. “I don’t know if whether subsequent to the last court date, Ms. Cooke and Albert may have rekindled their relationship. But make no mistake about it: I will find out.
“There was no intentional lying to the court. We would never do that. It’s an ethical violation,” Sedita said. “Mr. Texido’s representations to the court were truthful representations. He was not misleading the court.”
A court hearing on the renewed argument before Marky could come as early as next week. That means the announcement of his verdict will be delayed in the nonjury trial of Hoskins on 74 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. The criminal trial, which began in May 2012, stems from a 2010 raid by the SPCA of Hoskins’ Morgan horse farm on Emery Road.
Hoskins’ attorney Thursday released two photographs taken by Thurston Investigative Agency of Hamburg, showing Cooke, dressed in her SPCA uniform, and Albert getting into her car Wednesday morning, apparently outside of his residence on Richmond Avenue in Buffalo. Another photo shows the same car dropping Albert off about 14 minutes later in front of 25 Delaware Ave., where the District Attorney’s Office is located.
The surveillance began late Tuesday afternoon, with a spot check at the SPCA’s Ensminger Road site in the Town of Tonawanda, noting a black 2010 Hyundai Elantra car registered to Cooke. At about 8:47 p.m., the investigator followed Cooke, eventually tracking her car in the vicinity of a home on Richmond Avenue, where Albert was outside placing trash receptacles at the curb. Cooke, who was wearing casual attire, was observed entering the front door at about 9:14 p.m., according to the surveillance report.
Surveillance resumed at 4:55 a.m. Wednesday. According to the report, Cooke’s car had remained parked in the same spot. Just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, Cooke was seen leaving the Richmond Avenue home, wearing an SPCA uniform with the name “A. Cooke” on it. She placed some items in the car and then re-entered the home. A few minutes later, Albert emerged, wearing a suit and carrying what appeared to be a gym bag and a newspaper. The two then left in her vehicle, which briefly stopped in front of 25 Delaware Ave., where Albert left the car and entered the building, the report said.
Following a June 18 deposition that Bartolomei conducted with Cooke, Hoskins said her attorney felt it was worth delving deeper.
“She wasn’t simply an intern observing activity” for the SPCA, Hoskins said of Cooke. “Alex Cooke’s role has been much more central.”
Hoskins also said it was learned that Cooke apparently was receiving $500 per month from the SPCA – through court-ordered bond money paid from Hoskins – toward care of a few of Hoskins’ horses being fostered at Cooke’s parents’ farm in East Aurora. Initially, the defense had believed Cooke’s parents were being paid. “Once we found this, we thought maybe we should take another look, to see if the relationship had really ended,” Hoskins said Thursday.
The private detective’s surveillance “only took one time, and he got everything,” Hoskins said.
Albert could not be reached to comment. Cooke declined to comment when reached, as did the SPCA. Bartolomei did not return a call seeking comment.