The longest-running legal soap opera in recent local history staggered Monday to its merciful, exhausted end.

Calling a conclusion to the seemingly interminable proceeding was the only person who could, Douglas Marky. Aurora’s part-time town justice finally saw fit to dispense some. It took more than three years to resolve what should have taken only months. The consolation is this simple-but-severe case of animal hoarding came, based on evidence, to a justifiable end: Beth Lynne Hoskins found guilty on 52 of 74 counts of animal abuse for mistreating her Morgan horses.

Justice delayed, in this case, was not justice denied.

Not even Hoskins, the deep-pursed 45-year-old queen of continual delay, could indefinitely avoid a final reckoning. When this thing started, David Paterson was governor, Chris Lee was a congressman, and Bass Pro was touted as the centerpiece of our waterfront development. So, yes, it has been a while.

The case’s lazy-river meander through numerous adjournments underlined how the system can be manipulated. The recipe is simple: Mix a wealthy defendant – Hoskins’ parents own Curtis Screw, a $68 million-per-year machining business – with a weak-willed judge in the twilight legal venue of a town court. Up next is a September sentencing and Hoskins’ inevitable appeal.

The SPCA’s Barbara Carr, asked Monday about the trial’s length, bit her tongue and understated: “It didn’t have anything to do with the SPCA or the District Attorney’s Office.”

I got the sense that, despite a ruling that branded her an animal abuser, Hoskins has enjoyed the prolonged attention.

Although she no longer will be the star of a self-made drama, she made the most of her final scene. Looking casual-chic in a green skirt and tan top, Hoskins addressed several of the surrounding reporters by name after the verdict, telling one TV reporter that he looked better in person. She showed no regret or remorse, stating: “I firmly believe in my innocence.”

She might be the only one. Signposts on her road to denial include the conspiracy theory that “animal activists are infiltrating humane organizations.” Hoskins also said the SPCA underfed her horses, which she said were healthy when it seized them. The judge astutely filed the assertions under “horse manure.”

Hoskins accumulated Morgan horses as if guided by a combination of whim and compulsion.

Although she got a barnful of attention, the core of this case was not an overindulged defendant who admittedly spent three-quarters of a million dollars on legal fees. It was the animals entrusted to her.

These loyal, loving creatures – Cinnamon, Misty, Romeo and the rest – put their faith in her. Whether horses or hamsters, cats or dogs, domesticated animals depend on the care and kindness of those who take responsibility for their lives. Any owner failing in that, in as extreme and absolute a way as Hoskins did, deserves society’s scorn and the court’s punishment. The evidence pictures – in this case, of dung-caked coats and overgrown hooves – told a story that not even an overcautious judge could ignore.

Hoskins could delay justice. For all of her money and manipulation, she could not avoid it. The system, in this case, worked. Eventually.