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Hoskins to be sentenced in horse-cruelty case today

For three years and eight months, Beth Lynne Hoskins has never wavered in her vigorous battle to proclaim her innocence to 74 animal-cruelty charges after the SPCA seized her Morgan horses.

Despite her exhaustive efforts and those of many attorneys, she was convicted in July on 52 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty for mistreating many of the Morgans at her Eden Farm stables along Emery Road in the Town of Aurora.

And today the wealthy horsewoman, whose family owns Curtis Screw Co. in Buffalo, faces sentencing at 4:15 p.m. before Town Justice Douglas W. Marky, who found her guilty of the 52 counts in a nonjury criminal trial that stretched for more than a year.

The charges are misdemeanors under the state’s Agriculture & Markets Law. Marky found her not guilty on 22 charges.

In one sense, Hoskins’ fate in the criminal case will come full circle.

When she appears for sentencing today, Hoskins, 46, could face any of a variety of punishments, including a maximum of two years in jail, probation, fines or even a conditional discharge with stipulations – or even a split sentence combining a few of the options.

Marky said he wants to hear from both the defense and prosecution about what each side feels would be appropriate for her sentencing.

“We intend to ask for jail. This defendant has been convicted of 52 crimes,” said Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III. “We believe it’s an appropriate sentence.”

But today’s courtroom spotlight won’t just be on Hoskins.

The fate of the 48 horses that survive from among the 52 she was convicted of mistreating also is expected to be addressed in court.

Four of the horses died since the case began. Some of them were returned to Hoskins under another judge’s order stemming from civil proceedings, while the SPCA serving Erie County still cares for about 30 of her horses – some of which she’s convicted of mistreating – at various foster farms.

What could happen to the horses has long provoked a frenzy of attention in regional and national equestrian circles.

The District Attorney’s Office plans to request that Marky order forfeiture of the horses and that they be sold, with proceeds from the sale given to the SPCA.

“Judge Marky has the power to confiscate the horses under the state Agriculture & Markets Law, have them sold, and reimburse the SPCA for its expenses,” said Ralph C. Lorigo, the SPCA’s attorney.

Meanwhile, Lorigo said that since September 2012, Hoskins has not paid the nearly $20,000 court-ordered monthly payments to the SPCA to help cover the expense of the agency’s care of some of her horses – which was stipulated by State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia.

Hoskins still is pleading to have all of her horses returned. That matter is still before Glownia, who has overseen the civil case for three years. She also wants the SPCA to return the estimated $305,000 to her that she has paid the agency, Lorigo said.

Both of those subjects will be addressed in a Wednesday hearing before Glownia.