Just when people might have thought the seemingly endless saga of horsewoman Beth Lynne Hoskins – convicted two years ago of abusing 52 of her Morgan horses – had ended, it reared up again Thursday.
Hoskins found herself back before Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky for failing to pay $52,325 in fines.
Marky did not order any jail time for Hoskins, which was an option. Instead, he levied a $52,325 civil judgment against her for the unpaid fine he assessed her two years ago on 52 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. To date, only $85 of the original $52,410 fine has been paid.
“We’re dealing with a lot of money from the court’s view,” Marky said. “How can it be paid? Can it be paid?”
Accompanied by her 11-year-old daughter, the well-dressed Hoskins was composed in court, chatting informally with a her close friend and appointed horse farm trustee Jean R. Knox, widow of Seymour H. Knox III.
Hoskins once was considered wealthy in her own right as part of the Hoskins family that up until recently owned Curtis Screw Co. But on Thursday she was portrayed as broke and in no position to pay the $52,325 fine anytime soon. She now has a $52,000 yearly income through money her family gives her weekly.
Thursday’s court session came just a few days short of the one-year anniversary marking the start of Hoskins’ 90-day jail sentence Marky imposed after she violated the terms of her probation. She started serving her sentence Dec. 12, 2014 and was released in early February after getting time off for good behavior. The criminal case stemmed from a March 2010 raid on Hoskins’ Aurora farm on Emery Road, where the SPCA Serving Erie County seized more than 70 horses.
“Beth Hoskins receives $1,000 a week and is broke,” her attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, told the judge. He said she receives $1,000 a week from her parents, though it technically comes through her brother, John Hoskins. Jr., who has power of attorney.
The attorney painted a dire picture of Hoskins’ finances. Plus, he said there are claims of liens against some of the 64 horses still under her control. He asked the court to spare Hoskins the eight months’ jail time she could have faced for failing to pay the fines.
“Beth Hoskins didn’t go out and buy a Jaguar,” Eoannou said. “Beth rented a house on Klein Road,” wanting to be near her parents, both of whom are very sick and also because she wanted to be in an area with a good school for her daughter, whom Hoskins later said now attends a private school.
Eoannou presented Marky with a text message from Hoskins’ landlord to show she is in “arrears on her rent”, and documentation showing her sole bank account is overdrawn and there have been efforts to defer a utility bill.
She pays $2,500 per month to rent a home in East Amherst, has about $400 left for gas and transportation expenses since she drives her daughter to and from school, and faces $600 in monthly health insurance costs, some medical bills for herself and daughter, a $30 home phone bill and $600 leftover for food and clothing, her attorney said.
At the end of a month, Hoskins is short $151, Eoannou said. “She’s even borrowing money from friends to try and cover those small expenses,” he added.
Prosecutor Nicholas Texedo didn’t mince words. “There are choices all of us make with the money that we get,” he said.
Texedo noted that Hoskins began renting her home in July, well after the court fine was levied. “It’s kind of a tough argument to come in and say you’re broke when you’re making the choices you are,” he said.
“It’s like a defendant being sentenced by this court for drunken driving and (getting) a $1,000 fine and him saying he can’t pay the fine because (he) bought a Jaguar,” Texedo said. He noted that $2,500 monthly rent is “very substantial.” “It’s more than anyone’s mortgage payment that I know,” he said.
“The defendant has assets at her disposal,” said Assistant District Attorney G. Michael Drmacich. “In fact, she still owns all 64 horses despite orders of (another) court ... ”
Hoskins has $52,000 a year “just handed to her without working a minute” and cries broke, Texedo said.
Her attorney shot back that she shouldn’t be put down because she’s not working. “She doesn’t have the ability to pay the fine,” Eoannou said.
“Nothing prevents her from getting a job and putting in a few hours” for some cash, Texedo said. “It’s very difficult for me to stomach the cry poor, when she’s being handed $52,000.”
Marky said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to order Hoskins to get a job. The logical alternative, he said, is to file a civil judgment. “Somewhere down the line, I would hope the fines get paid,” the judge said. “I want it paid. It’s our obligation to make sure it get paid. I would prefer the defendant write a check today and be done with it.”
Outside of the courtroom, Barbara Carr, executive director of the SPCA, was not thrilled. “It’s a little disappointing that we can’t hold some people accountable for their actions,” she said. “I know when I raised my children alone, I lived in apartments, and I worked for everything I had and paid my bills ... It’s just a shame the state is out this money.”
Carr was skeptical the fine will ever get paid. “She hasn’t done any of the things she said she would, so we’ll see,” Carr said.
Afterward, Hoskins held her daughter’s hand outside the courtroom. “I am grateful,” she said of the judge’s decision. “It’ll be nice to have Christmas at home.”
She then quickly expressed anger at the release of her financial information. “It’s extremely inappropriate to be sharing that information, particularly with some family issues going on in another court,” Hoskins said, vowing to expose the source of the leak.
She said she owns 35 horses and declined to say where they are kept. The remaining 29 are under contract to be sold, she said.
SPCA attorney Frank Jacobson disputed the status of those 29 horses. He said he just learned that those 29 horses are now somewhere in Niagara County. “We don’t know what the status of the sale is,” he said.