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The Chautauqua town justice who has been handling the animal-cruelty case against a West Virginia horsewoman removed himself Thursday from the proceeding, amid telephone death threats he said he has received.

Justice David J. Narducci said he took the action, in part, because of "the many negative remarks" generated by what he called one-sided media accounts of the year-old case involving a woman's alleged abuse of horses.

Narducci, whose Dec. 18 dismissal of the case was overturned by a higher court two weeks ago, said he still feels the charges against Cheryl A. Parkhurst should be dismissed. But he noted that state judicial conduct codes require a judge to step aside where there is "even a mere perception of partiality."

Court officials said further proceedings in the criminal case will be handled by Chautauqua Town Justice Michael J. Bolender in Mayville on Oct. 15.

In stepping down from the case, Narducci said the media were quick to publish "one side of this story," which "has received more press than some murder cases in this county." He decried the fact that news reports "reached out to hurt my family and prompted telephone death threats to my very life."

Neither Chautauqua County District Attorney James P. Subjack nor Ronald J. Gibb, the prosecutor in the animal-cruelty case, was available to comment Thursday.

Two weeks ago, Chautauqua County Judge John T. Ward overturned Narducci's Dec. 18 dismissal of the eight-count animal-cruelty case against Ms. Parkhurst as a result of Subjack's appeal of what the prosecutor called Narducci's erroneous findings.

Ms. Parkhurst was charged on July 22, 1998, after the owner of a farm where she was keeping the horses reportedly alerted the Chautauqua County Humane Society that the horses were not being properly cared for. If convicted of the state Agriculture and Markets Law violations, Ms. Parkhurst faces a possible fine or brief local jail time.

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