I feel like applauding with one hand.
The judge in the notorious Beth Hoskins civil court case took twice as long as he should have to get it half-right. State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Glownia finally dragged the horse-mistreatment proceedings into the homestretch Tuesday by doing what he should have done nearly two years ago: Appoint two receivers to sell 29 horses from the herd of the privileged scion of a wealthy family who is arguably the foremost animal abuser in county history.
If he weren’t wearing blinders, Glownia would have long ago ordered Hoskins’ entire herd of 64 Morgan horses seized and sold. And he would’ve tossed the animal hoarder – convicted in criminal court two years ago on 52 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty – in jail for missing some half-dozen “deadlines” for the civil-settlement sale of the 29 animals.
Glownia’s ruling came at the end of two days of court testimony that, to anyone with a lick of horse sense, lifted the lid off the long-running series of shams, scams, deflections and delays that Hoskins and her band of enablers put over on the court. The saga includes phantom horse buyers, non-performing “friends-of-Hoskins” trustees, a revolving door of defense attorneys and – recently – a supposed herd-afflicting respiratory ailment that, conveniently, was never diagnosed nor treated by a vet.
The “disease” looked more like a symptom of Hoskins’ need to explain to the judge why 29 animals supposedly sold in September to a Hoskins’ friend near Rochester still hadn’t as of last month been moved from their temporary home. At which point Hoskins, in defiance of the court, had them trucked back to her Aurora farm – site of the initial abuse.
I wish I was making all of this up. But, frankly, my imagination isn’t that vivid.
Perhaps the only one who still doesn’t see through the charade is Glownia, who struck me in court as more of a complacent cowpoke than a ride-the-herd trail boss. I’m told that the Larry David lookalike has a decent reputation in the legal community, which only makes his determined myopia in this case more perplexing.
Although Hoskins’ recent bait-and-switch with the horses spurred Glownia to call Monday’s hearing, and he may punish her, it sometimes seemed like the SPCA was on trial. The 69-year-old jurist is, astoundingly, considering sanctioning the animal-protection agency for asking its Rochester-area counterpart last month to check out the horse farm of the most recent supposed buyer.
Hoskins’ lawyer, presumably with a straight face, said the look-see “interfered” with the 29-horse sale. Given Hoskins’ track record, the SPCA’s check was simple due diligence – particularly given the murky circumstances of the “sale,” and the possibility of an animal protection agency being left holding the bag of oats if things went south. Which seemed likely, insofar as Hoskins’ Rochester friend, Jennifer Hartwell, testified that her largest previous one-time horse purchase was for three animals.
Nearly six years after the SPCA seized 73 horses – many of them underfed, with manure-matted coats – from Hoskins’ Aurora barn, Glownia still is drinking the enabler-flavored moonshine. If he bent any further backward to accommodate Hoskins, the court would need a resident chiropractor.
Central to this bizarre soap opera is Jean Knox, wealthy widow of Buffalo Sabres co-founder Seymour Knox III. The longtime Hoskins’ friend is the latest money behind the equine madness. She popped up at various times lately as Hoskins’ chief money-lender, trustee for the horse sale, a prospective buyer and – most recently – financial backer of the Rochester-area supposed horse purchaser.
I’m not sure if Knox is being taken advantage of, or is willingly along for the ride. Either way, the Bank of Jean has been a veritable Fort Knox for Hoskins, who needed a surrogate wallet. Hoskins previously said she was getting $21,000 monthly from her parents, founders of Curtis Screw Corp., until the flow was reportedly cut last summer to a weekly $1,000 trickle – hardly enough to maintain the 35 horses she was allowed to keep.
Knox testified Monday she has loaned Hoskins more than $50,000 but “didn’t think” it was more than $100,000. Although the trust was formed a year ago to satisfy the court-ordered sale of 29 horses, trustee Knox said she “never fully read” the trust agreement and “didn’t know” the trust was supposed to sell the animals – or regularly check on their condition. Although named by Hoskins’ then-attorney as the court-satisfying, prospective horse-buyer last summer, Knox said Monday she never agreed to buy any animals.
The rabbit hole gets deeper. Knox said she made the $5,000 down payment for the horse sale to Hoskins’ Rochester-area friend, and would lend her the $45,000 balance – even though she barely knows Hartwell and they hadn’t discussed a loan.
If the banks were this free with money, the economy would go over a cliff.
All of the deceptions, delays and smoke-and-mirror subterfuge might be entertaining, if the ultimate fate of 64 horses didn’t hang in the balance.
Glownia should have brought the gavel down 15 months ago, when he cited Hoskins for contempt of court for failing to sell the animals by the initial deadline. Instead of ending the travesty, he granted her a full book of chances – swallowing one court-defying “dog ate my homework” excuse after another.
Meanwhile 29 horses lived in limbo, the SPCA’s legal fees mounted, Hoskins dodged accountability and the animals somehow ended up back in her “care.” Instead of running a courtroom, Glownia has presided over a circus.