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Sides differ on whether Hoskins got what she deserved

A judge had just spared her jail and let her keep the Morgan horses she was convicted of mistreating.

But as Beth Lynne Hoskins left the East Aurora Village Hall to gather with family at the Roycroft Inn a few blocks away, she asked if she deserved what had come to her – both inside and outside the courtroom.

“If I am going to seek justice, why am I a demon?” she asked.

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III has his own ideas about whether Hoskins got what she deserved. He wanted her in jail.

As for her reputation?

“I have never seen a defendant convicted of 52 crimes sue the prosecutors, sue the investigators and even sue the witnesses for $2 billion,” Sedita said Friday. “That tells me about her lack of remorse, vindictiveness and her detachment from reality.”

Even Hoskins’ lawyer acknowledged the damage to the wealthy horsewoman’s name after Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky placed Hoskins on probation for three years, ordered her to perform 500 hours of community service and fined her $52,000 for her 52 misdemeanor animal cruelty counts.

“This case has not only destroyed her career, her reputation, it has taken a toll, physically and emotionally,” said defense lawyer Thomas J. Eoannou.

But she should not be portrayed as a villain because she fought in court, Eoannou said in court.

“She’s not defiant,” he said. “She’s fighting the SPCA and power of the district attorney’s office, to save her name. Hasn’t Beth been punished enough?”

Sedita’s prosecutor had pressed the judge to sentence her to two years in jail and to order the forfeiture of the 47 surviving horses she was convicted of mistreating – with proceeds from the sales given to the SPCA Serving Erie County, which has custody of some of the horses.

The judge did neither.

“This defendant blames everyone of malicious wrongdoing – everyone but herself,” Assistant District Attorney Michael Drmacich said in court.

Now, Hoskins wants time to heal and rebuild her life with her daughter and horses. She’s had enough of the public scrutiny that accompanied the charges.

And she is mindful of how long the three-year-plus saga dragged on. By her count, Thursday was Day 1,323.

Despite her convictions, Hoskins insists her horses did not suffer or become malnourished. Nor did she have too many to manage at her Eden Farm stables along Emery Road in the Town of Aurora, she said.

“I don’t believe the conditions at my farm were a crime,” Hoskins said. “I do think it was a shame.”

Hoskins, tearful at times during her 10-minute statement in court, called her sentence a victory.

“It certainly is a win for my daughter and myself to avoid jail,” she said afterward.

She bristled at the prosecutor’s description of her as “the most prolific animal abuser” in the modern history of Erie County.

“I think Frank A. Sedita III has been out of proportion” in this case, Hoskins said.

Neither Hoskins nor Eoannou would say if the sentence will be appealed. “The plans right now are to rest, re-group and heal,” she said.

Hoskins apparently will be able to help plan her 500 hours of community service. Marky said she, the defense attorney and probation officer would work on that.

“Take 30 days and make a plan,” Marky said.

Eoannou encouraged Marky to sentence Hoskins to “hundreds of hours of community service” – possibly teaching children how to ride horses at riding stables or at the Erie County Fairgrounds.

As part of community service, Eoannou also told Marky to have Hoskins talk about how “she got in over her head and what happened.”

He suggested the possibility of counseling to determine if Hoskins is a hoarder, but urged the judge not to fine her.

“She’s paid enough already,” Eoannou said.

The judge said she must keep her farm and barns maintained in a sanitary manner, consistent with the minimum standards of care from the New York State Horse Council. She also must have at least one worker for every 15 horses. Presently, 39 horses are at her farm, while the SPCA has the rest of the herd at various foster locations.

“I need to be assured that those horses are properly cared for,” no matter how many there are, Marky said.

Hoskins said she has spent $85,000 fixing her farm and has hired more help.

The horse business is a luxury business that suffers when the economy declines, she said. As a result, she has not bred a horse since 2008, she said.

Eoannou told the judge Hoskins has a $1 million horse facility and a family to support her.

“Leave those horses exactly where they are,” Eoannou told Marky. “The Hoskins family will have an independent inspector go to the farm” and check it, instead of the routine SPCA inspections.

Sedita said Friday that his office prosecuted Hoskins to the fullest extent of the law.

“Given the number of the defendant’s crimes and her complete and utter lack of remorse, I am very disappointed that she did not go to jail,” he said. “Given the nature of the forum, however, I am not surprised that she got a probationary sentence. I hope the court monitors her probation carefully.”

In a nonjury trial, Marky convicted her in July of 52 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

The SPCA seized 73 horses from her Aurora Morgan horse farm on March 18, 2010.

Marky’s 14-point probation plan could include counseling and in-patient treatment if recommended by the probation officer.

Meanwhile, Hoskins still faces legal problems.

The case now shifts to State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Glownia’s courtroom, where civil proceedings have repeatedly been on and off – marked by numerous adjournments and delays.

Glownia presides over a case in which Hoskins and the SPCA disagree over how much money, if any, Hoskins owes the SPCA for care of some of the horses in their custody.

The SPCA, having spent $1.36 million, said she has not paid the court-ordered monthly payments in more than a year and owes more than $600,000.

Hoskins disputes she owes the agency anything. She wants the $305,000 she has paid them to date to be returned to her, and wants all the horse returned to her.

Five of the horses have died - “Gracie,” her daughter’s riding horse, died on the eve of sentencing.