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An enabling judge wears blinders in Hoskins horse case

It’s Beth Hoskins’ world. The rest of us just live in it.

I hate to concede to anyone that sort of power and influence. But based on how the spoiled, privileged “horse lady” has gotten a couple of rubber-spined judges to bend to her wishes, it’s the only logical conclusion.

What should have been a clear-cut case of animal hoarding has turned into a five-year saga of justice delayed and accountability denied.

The rest of us have to abide by the law. Hoskins just flouts it.

The legal manure of this case, first in criminal court and now in Judge Joseph Glownia’s civil proceeding, is piled as high as the dung was in Hoskins’ barn. The SPCA in 2010 discovered many of her 73 Morgan horses underfed with coats matted in their own droppings – accusations confirmed by her subsequent conviction on 52 counts of animal cruelty.

It was a persuasive argument to end Hoskins’ reign as a horse owner, or to at least drastically reduce the herd. Yet as you read this, all of Hoskins’ 64 surviving horses are back on her Aurora farm. We are, astoundingly, back where we started. For perhaps the first time in history, the “solution” to a hoarding case involves temporarily returning the animals to the hoarder.

Glownia’s tacit blessing of the arrangement Tuesday may be a Christmas gift in Hoskins’ mind, but I doubt that the animals are clicking their hooves over the prospect of further neglect at her hands.

It may be time to alter Glownia’s title from State Supreme Court judge to Supreme Enabler. Hoskins – whose family owned Curtis Screw Co. – is the horse-hoarder, but it’s the judge who’s wearing blinders.

She defies his orders, with little consequence. She does what she pleases, with no accountability. If this is the way the justice system was supposed to work, plenty of people would quit their day jobs for a life of crime.

Nineteen months after Glownia ordered her – as part of the civil-settlement agreement – to unload all but 35 of her horses, Hoskins has the entire brood back on the farm. By the SPCA’s count, a half-dozen prospective horse-sale “deadlines” have since come and gone, with Hoskins offering a variety of “dog ate my homework” excuses. The latest undone deal was the court-brokered sale of the animals, staying temporarily at a Lockport farm, to a Rochester-area friend of Hoskins. When things supposedly fell through “at the last minute,” Hoskins pulled a fast one and had the animals returned not to Niagara County, but trucked to her Aurora farm.

Glownia let the bait-and-switch slide Tuesday, allowing Hoskins to keep the animals pending a Jan. 11 hearing.

If the judge was any more accommodating, he’d serenade court spectators with a chorus of “Hakuna Matata.”

The SPCA’s Barbara Carr was understandably dumbstruck by Glownia’s latest rollover.

“For the first time in my life, I was at a loss for words,” the SPCA’s longtime president told me. “She doesn’t do what she’s supposed to do, and there are no consequences from the court.”

At some point, the judge needs to wake up and smell the oats. He’s dealing with a hoarder. Although largely forgotten, the SPCA also seized 51 cats from a shed on Hoskins’ farm. The stench of cat urine was so intense rescuers had to wear masks. That part of the animal-abuse complaint was dismissed in criminal court – incomprehensibly, given its deeper evidence of Hoskins’ hoarder tendencies.

The point is, Hoskins – unless forced otherwise – will keep a grip on as many of these horses as she can. As of today, that’s all of them.

It’s surreal. The SPCA had buyers lined up a year ago, but Glownia unfathomably granted Hoskins’ wish that the animals not go to any SPCA-connected owner. In a rare burst of clarity, Glownia recently threatened to take all 64 horses from her, then did a predictable about-face.

Even if Hoskins had the will to harbor a herd, there doesn’t seem to be a way. Her primary income is reportedly a $1,000 weekly stipend from her family. That’s barely enough to keep a pony for her 11-year-old daughter, much less to maintain a herd of 35. It seems inevitable that these horses will have to be sold. Why is Glownia prolonging the agony?

Instead of bringing down the gavel, the judge acts like an enabling parent who can’t say no to a spoiled child. He’s not alone. Hoskins’ curious band of loyalists includes Jean Knox. The widow of original Sabres owner Seymour Knox III is Hoskins’ frequent court companion and supposedly one of her prospective horse buyers – none of whom, curiously, ever consummates the deal.

Usually the trail of the indulged ends in real-world adulthood, when one’s every whim isn’t accommodated. But first in Aurora Town Justice Douglas Marky, who allowed Hoskins’ criminal case to drag on, and now in the civil matter with Glownia, Hoskins found a pair of Men in Black who feed her sense of entitlement.

At least Marky – after much hand-wringing – eventually convicted her in town court two years ago of animal cruelty misdemeanors. The sentence was probation and a $52,410 fine – of which she paid just $85. Hoskins subsequently served a 60-day sentence on a probation violation.

The bridle has since been in Glownia’s hands, and he keeps dropping it.

I wrote four years ago that Glownia should recuse himself because his son-in-law worked at Curtis Screw, where Hoskins’ family made its fortune (the company was recently sold). His failure to hold Hoskins accountable for everything from selling her horses to court-ordered inspections of the animals confirmed my sense that he shouldn’t be in the saddle. Whether the issue is a conflict of interest or simply poor judgment, this justice has a blind spot.

The larger problem isn’t Hoskins. Even if it wasn’t the holiday season, I’d have sympathy for an apparent animal hoarder, with its psychological implications. From the start, the fair outcome of this case was clear: Remove the animals from her control. Pursue an animal cruelty case to an end that includes counseling. Have Hoskins reimburse the SPCA for her horses’ care until responsible owners are found.

Instead, the civil case comes into the homestretch of its sixth year, handled by an enabling judge with a loose grip on the reins. Until his blinders come off, the runaround will continue.