Beth Lynne Hoskins’ convictions on 52 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty will stand.
The Aurora horse farm owner lost her appeal of the convictions this week as Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka affirmed Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky’s guilty verdicts on the 52 counts after a 14-month nonjury trial that ended in 2013.
Marky sentenced Hoskins to three years’ probation, but she violated the probation and was sentenced by Marky in December to three months in jail. She started serving her sentence Dec. 12 and was released in early February after getting time off for good behavior.
In affirming the 52 guilty verdicts more than five years after the SPCA raided Hoskins’ horse farm, Pietruszka rejected defense attorney Thomas J. Eoannou’s contention that they were inconsistent with the not-guilty verdicts on the other 22 counts.
“In the case at bar, each count involved a different horse, and it is obvious that the trial court (Marky) reviewed the elements of each of the crimes charged,” Pietruszka said.
“And a finding of ‘not guilty’ with regard to one count does not affect the analysis of the counts upon which the trial court convicted the appellant (Hoskins). It is reasonable for the trial court to determine that one horse was neglected while finding other horses were properly cared for.”
Pietruszka also rejected the defense contention that the guilty verdicts were not supported by legally sufficient evidence.
He said prosecutors “introduced ample evidence” of Hoskins’ guilt on each of the 52 counts.
Based on the evidence, he said, “a rational finder of fact could determine that the appellant failed to provide food, drink or sustenance to the horses identified in those counts or that the appellant’s neglect unjustifiably caused” those horses pain.
Pietruszka also rejected the defense contention that the prosecution’s repeated violations of pretrial disclosure requirements violated Hoskins’ rights to due process and a fair trial, requiring reversal of the verdicts.
The judge said the prosecution provided Hoskins’ attorney with more than 18,000 documents “during the course of the extended proceeding.”
When it became apparent that “a small number of documents” were not turned over in a timely fashion, he said, those documents were given to the defense before the end of the trial.
He noted that Marky gave the defense the opportunity to review the documents and recall witnesses, but the defense opted not to recall any witnesses.
He found that Marky’s actions on this issue “were thoughtful, proper, reasonable and not an abuse of discretion.”
“The Constitution of the State of New York guarantees the accused a fair trial, not a perfect one,” he said. “This court find that the appellant was given a fair trial.”