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Hoskins testifies at hearing on future of her horses

Beth Lynne Hoskins testified in court Tuesday that in late August her attorney drafted a purchase contract for a Rochester horsewoman to pay $50,000 to buy 29 of her horses and that the contract was brought to the buyer at a Niagara County farm where the horses were being temporarily stabled.

Dressed in a gold skirt and dark-colored cape and wearing plaid vinyl boots, Hoskins was on the stand for 30 minutes before the court recessed for lunch.

Hoskins was convicted of 52 counts of animal cruelty in 2013 for the care of many of her Morgan horses at her Aurora farm. A civil court hearing before State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia is in its second day dealing with issues raised since she has not sold the 29 horses he ordered sold more than a year ago.

Under questioning from Ralph C. Lorigo, the attorney for the SPCA Serving Erie County, Hoskins said she couldn’t quite remember when she first started talking with Rochester horsewoman Jennifer Hartwell, who owns Skyloft Morgan Farm. “It was an ongoing conversation I’ve had with Jennifer for a long time. We’ve been talking for years about different things,” Hoskins said.

“This is a very unique transaction. It’s not an easy way to value that group, given their ages … ” Hoskins said. “We felt $50,000 was a fair amount given the variety of different elements at play with the group.”

She said some of the 29 horses “are highly coveted in some ways.” She also acknowledged that only some of them are registered with Morgan Horse officials.

She said her attorney in August, Gregory Davis, had come up with the $50,000 amount – but she could not recall where the $5,000 downpayment check went. Instead a check was written in late December by farm trust co-trustee and family friend Jean Knox, who had been partly responsible as trustee for helping sell about half of Hoskins’ herd a year ago. That sale never occurred.

Davis had advised that Hartwell bring the $5,000 check to the courtroom, Hoskins testified. But that never happened.

“She had to get her computer to do that. She didn’t have a checkbook,” Hoskins said of Hartwell, who finished testifying Tuesday morning.

Lorigo asked Hoskins if she ever took the check home when it was received. At some point, a copy of the check was presented to the court.

Asked why by Lorigo, Hoskins said. “I think it was an oversight. I didn’t think I needed to.”

Hoskins also answered that she did not know where that check was and said it never was in her possession.

Her latest testimony also has dealt with the infection that an increasing number of horses in her herd contracted in September while being stabled at Marie Bennett’s farm in Lockport. There have been contradicting statements about just what they had contracted – whether it was the highly contagious Strangles or an upper respiratory infection.

During the lunch recess, Lorigo said he believes there is “a course of conduct” showing Hoskins’ repeated violation of court orders is important enough to be worth noting. But the judge disagreed.

In the courtroom, shortly after Hoskins was called by the SPCA to testify, Glownia clearly became annoyed with Lorigo’s interest in pinning down numerous court orders and directives that he has said Hoskins has violated or ignored. “I don’t need an established pattern of conduct,” the judge said. “Mr. Lorigo, if we reviewed every (condition) of this case, we’d be here for four weeks.”

Glownia refused to allow Lorigo to continue with that line of questioning and Lorigo noted his objection.

The judge has not yet said anything in court about the status of his plans to appoint a receiver for 29 of her 64 horses to have those 29 sold. In late December, after the sale to Hartwell never occurred and Hoskins’ horses were taken back to join the 35 she is allowed to keep at her Aurora farm, the judge said he would appoint a receiver in control of the 29 and to also oversee the 35 but that Hoskins was still in charge of those 35.

Hartwell completed her second day of testimony this morning after more than an hour on the stand.