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Horse owner rejects plea deal in animal cruelty case

In an animal cruelty case stretching over 15 months, Town of Aurora horse farm owner Beth Lynne Hoskins has rejected a plea offer from the Erie County District Attorney's Office.

The announcement of the plea offer, made Tuesday by Assistant District Attorney Michael Drmacich in Aurora Town Court, came after a 30-minute meeting behind closed doors involving Hoskins' attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, Drmacich and Town Justice Douglas W. Marky.

The deal would have resulted in two Class A misdemeanor counts against Hoskins for two of her horses and possibly up to two years in jail, with the prosecution agreeing to an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal on the remaining 72 horse-related counts, pending a probationary period established by the court.

The plea bargain called for an open-ended sentence, meaning there would be no sentence commitment from the court. Additionally, the prosecution said it would have withdrawn its recent appeal of Marky's earlier dismissal of 51 animal cruelty charges involving dozens of cats seized from Hoskins' farm.

With the defense's rejection of the plea offer, Drmacich said it is now off the table.

Hoskins had been facing 125 counts of animal cruelty, 74 of them tied to horses at her Emery Road farm. While 40 of her horses have been returned to her by a judge in the civil case, the SPCA Serving Erie County still is caring for the remaining horses, with the cost exceeding $500,0000.

The defense did not comment in court when Drmacich disclosed the plea offer. Eoannou instead focused attention on a hearing, which was delayed until July 7, about the truthfulness of statements by SPCA Officer Lindsey Styborski when she appealed to the court for a search warrant for Hoskins' farm. The March 2010 raid was one of the largest conducted by the SPCA in decades.

As he left the courtroom and was asked about the the plea offer, Eoannou said: "That was not the original plea we had discussed."

"They had until today on the plea-bargain," District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said afterward. "It's unfortunate that this case has taken such a long time to get tried."

Later Tuesday evening, Hoskins told The Buffalo News that she and her attorney had been working for the last two months on a deal that would not have resulted in any criminal counts but an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal on all 74 horse charges. She said she also would have agreed to pay some money to the SPCA -- an amount she declined to disclose.

"Over the weekend, we heard it wasn't going to happen," she said.

SPCA Executive Director Barbara Carr said the agency was disappointed that the hearing was postponed and that the plea offer was not accepted.

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