The judge in the Beth Hoskins animal cruelty case has denied the defense lawyer's request to adjourn the criminal trial in an attempt to obtain a "global" settlement -- but the pace of the proceedings may give him other opportunities in the coming weeks.
Defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou made the request to adjourn the nonjury trial Monday, which caught many off guard, including Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky.
Marky, who is presiding over the case, noted that global settlements in the past have not worked in the Hoskins case. Last summer, Hoskins rejected a plea offer from the District Attorney's Office.
Hoskins was charged in 2010 by the SPCA Serving Erie County with neglecting dozens of Morgan horses she kept on her Aurora farm. She is on trial on 74 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse.
The case has costs both Hoskins and the SPCA tens of thousands of dollars and has been dogged by a slew of adjournments and delays in both criminal and civil courtrooms.
Although the criminal trial has started, Eoannou has some wiggle room if he and SPCA officials are determined to reach a settlement.
The trial won't resume until 4:15 p.m. Tuesday in Town Court, and it's unclear how long it will take to complete. Participants will be in court only once during some weeks, and other weeks as often as three times. Eoannou has predicted the trial will take six to eight weeks.
In court Monday, Eoannou said that working through "a global resolution" could be favorable for all parties. He noted that he and SPCA officials spent much of last weekend and the bulk of Monday working on a possible settlement.
He went out of his way in court Monday to point out that three SPCA Serving Erie County board members -- board President Lawrence F. Robb, Ronald Benderson and James J. Eagan -- were present in the courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Drmacich objected to the proposed court delay, saying he did not know about a settlement proposal and was ready to go forward with the trial.
Eoannou, however, continued to press -- noting that he and SPCA attorneys have spent considerable time working on a possible settlement.
"This is all new to me," Drmacich said.
"This is all obviously new to me, [too]," Marky said.
Eoannou, however, said he contacted the District Attorney's Office on Monday and had spoken with Drmacich.
Drmacich told the judge he only knew that a motion would be brought forward by Eoannou.
With that, Marky asked SPCA representatives and attorneys to meet behind closed doors with him. After nearly 10 minutes, they emerged, with Marky denying Eoannou's request for an adjournment.
Outside the courtroom afterward, Eoannou had softer words for the SPCA than during his opening statement.
"The SPCA, in large part, is a wonderful organization," he said. "Beth is a wonderful woman and [horse] breeder. I think it's time for Beth to move on and be the horse breeder that she is."
Eoannou said he hoped to work things out with the SPCA.
"I think it's time to shake hands and resolve it," he said. "This is going to be very costly to Beth and SPCA resources."
In a separate interview, Drmacich said he could not speculate on a potential settlement.
"On the day of the trial start, there was a phone call [to our office], but that was it," he said. "There were no negotiations. As far as I'm concerned, we are trying this case. We've already started."
A short distance away, SPCA attorneys and board members were huddled together in a closed, unused courtroom talking for several minutes after the trial stopped for the day. When they emerged, SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning said the agency would not comment.