When Aurora horse farm owner Beth Lynne Hoskins is sentenced Sept. 26 on 52 counts of animal cruelty for mistreatment of her high-end Morgan horses, the prosecution will be seeking the forfeiture of an unspecified number of horses.
That news emerged Monday afternoon in Aurora Town Court at the end of a special hearing that was held to give anyone with any financial interest in any of Hoskins’ herd an opportunity to come before the court to plead ownership interest before Justice Douglas W. Marky.
No one showed up in court to claim financial interest. But Assistant District Attorney Michael Drmacich delivered a message to the court: “The people will be asking for forfeiture of horses at the time of sentencing,” he told Marky.
Just as quickly, one of Hoskins’ attorneys, John P. Bartolomei, told the court that Hoskins will oppose the forfeiture when the issue comes up at sentencing.
When pressed afterward about how many horses the District Attorney’s Office would be asking to be forfeited, Drmacich was tight-lipped. “I’d rather remain vague at this point,” he said.
Throughout the criminal case – and pending civil case against Hoskins – many have believed that some of her horses, originally numbering 74, were on lease or loan from other horse owners for breeding purposes at her 50-acre farm on Emery Road in Aurora. Now, 69 horses remain since the 2010 raid. Hoskins has 39 at her farm, which were returned to her by a judge in the civil case. The SPCA cares for the other 30 parceled out at different foster farms.
SPCA Deputy Director Beth Shapiro, outside of court, said that 48 of the 52 horses Hoskins is convicted of mistreating remain alive – with 24 of them in SPCA care and the other 24 cared for at Hoskins’ farm. Four others have died.
Hoskins later said she was “relieved” that no one showed up to claim financial interest in any of her horses. Asked how many could have come forward to claim ownership, Hoskins said: “I would say none.”
“I felt very happy that today went as smoothly as it did,” Hoskins said. “I’m very grateful because other scenarios could have happened.”
One former owner of one of the horses sent a letter dated Aug. 2 to the court. That horse owner, Terri Schenk of Salem, Conn. – who could not attend the hearing or provide legal representation at it – provided the only communication on the horse ownership issue.
In her letter, Schenk told the court she gave Libby to Hoskins on May 2, 2009, with the understanding that she would be retired to Hoskins’ property. Schenk wrote that she since has followed Hoskins’ nonjury criminal trial via the Internet and contacted the SPCA to see if she could take Libby back as soon as she could be released to her custody without any exchange of money between Hoskins and herself.
But Libby was not one of the horses that Hoskins was convicted of mistreating, and both sets of attorneys agreed Monday that Schenk had given the mare to Hoskins to keep.
“It seems like the defendant is the sole owner of all the horses,” Marky said. “So, it seems like we’re done.”
Asked about the forfeiture issue, Hoskins said: “All of this has been surreal. I continue to maintain my innocence, and I will continue to use all my legal remedies.”