Aurora horse farm owner Beth Lynne Hoskins, facing 74 counts of animal cruelty, will go on trial after all.
Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky reached that decision Wednesday for the woman whose case still has people talking, more than two years after the SPCA Serving Erie County conducted one of its largest raids, seizing 130 of her animals, many of them Morgan horses.
Hoskins, who initially faced 125 misdemeanor counts, will be the focus of a nonjury criminal trial before Marky on the remaining 74 misdemeanor counts, which largely allege neglect and malnourishment of the horses under the state's Agriculture & Markets Law.
After the judge rejected the defense's motion to dismiss the case, Hoskins and her attorney said they welcome the upcoming trial.
"I absolutely look forward to the trial. I'm really excited for it," she said after the hearing Wednesday, with her 7-year-old daughter, Alex, by her side.
"There's no benefit to me to delay. I'm not guilty. This will be no benefit to the taxpayers," Hoskins said. "I don't have [all] my horses back or my freedom. My daughter, my animals and I are not pawns and I don't appreciate the way the district attorney has handled this."
Her attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, insisted afterward that the case needs to be tried.
"We're going to get a fair trial," he said. "If someone says something wrong, we're going to call them on it. I was very pleased that the judge acknowledged some inconsistencies."
Her trial will begin May 21 and, according to her attorney, could span six to eight weeks.
It is a case that has a running tab easily exceeding $1 million in costs, between the SPCA's continued expenses in caring for 32 of her horses under foster care, on top of what Hoskins is paying monthly in a court-ordered bond toward their care. She has been caring for 40 of her horses that were returned, and the SPCA regularly inspects her Emery Road farm.
Eoannou fought hard in court to have the charges dismissed. He painted a picture of abuse of power and overzealous attacks by the SPCA in going after Hoskins and destroying her reputation in the horse community. He also said his client was attacked for her character as a mother and unjustly reported to Child Protective Services, which did not lead to charges.
Eoannou characterized it as "law enforcement gone wild" and called it "the modern equivalent of a witch hunt."
He praised Hoskins' reputation in equestrian circles and said until the raid, she had an unblemished record.
"If ever there was a case to dismiss in the interest of justice, it's this one. It's gone on for two years," Eoannou said.
Eoannou's motion to dismiss was filed a month ago after consulting for months with attorney Michael Marion, a former chief of appeals for the district attorney's office. Marion found fault with how the case was handled, pointing out several discrepancies and criticizing the SPCA's investigation.
But in the end, Marky determined the case should go to trial, after reviewing a 3 1/2 -inch-thick stack of motion papers.
"The bottom line from the court's point of view, is it falls within" the parameters to go to trial, Marky said. "This court will deny the motion and look forward to the trial."
However, Marky went out of his way to note that the motion raised valid points, indirectly referring to discrepancies in earlier testimony from hearings involving the SPCA's lead investigator and the prosecution's star witness, Christopher M. Kane.
"The motion has a lot of truth to it. It reminded me of testimony we heard in the last few months," Marky said, praising Marion's work on the motion. "But I feel this has to be tried."
Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Texido argued that the motion was not filed in a timely manner and boiled down to an effort to avoid trial.
As she left the courtroom, Hoskins said she will post details of her motion online to inform the public of what she terms "the history of wrongdoing" by the SPCA and district attorney's office.
"I want the information out there and view it as extortion. On the day of the raid, they told me they wouldn't charge me if I surrendered the animals," she said.