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Lawyer sues Hoskins for unpaid legal bills in horse cruelty case

LOCKPORT - Beth Lynne Hoskins, whose long-running animal cruelty case kept her lawyers busy for years, has been sued by one of them who says she has not paid her legal bills.

Attorney John P. Bartolomei of Niagara Falls filed a lawsuit last week in State Supreme Court in Niagara County, accusing Hoskins of not paying him more than $315,000, including interest on unpaid bills dating back to 2013.

Thomas J. Eoannou represented Hoskins in her criminal trial, while Bartolomei worked as the original attorney in her civil cases, said attorney George V.C. Muscato of Lockport, who also worked for Hoskins at various times during the saga.

Bartolomei didn't return calls seeking comment. Hoskins has made no payment arrangement with him, according to his lawsuit.

Court papers show that in 2013 Bartolomei worked to prepare a civil case for Hoskins against the SPCA Serving Erie County, which in March 2010 carried out a search warrant at Hoskins' horse farm on Emery Road in Aurora. The organization charged her with dozens of counts of animal cruelty. Bartolomei also worked to defend Hoskins against the SPCA's suit against her, including preparations for a civil hearing before State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia.

Bartolomei also started work on an appeal in the criminal case in the summer of 2013, according to the court file.

Hoskins agreed in March 2013 to pay him $575 an hour, plus $350 an hour for an associate attorney and $125 an hour for a paralegal, legal assistant or clerk, according to court papers. At those prices, Hoskins owed Bartolomei more than $110,000 in the first four months of the arrangement. Hoskins paid $35,000 in July 2013, but the charges kept accumulating until Bartolomei left the case a few months later, according to court papers.

"We can't continue to work on non-revenue generating matters," Bartolomei wrote Hoskins in August 2013.

The Niagara Falls attorney sent Hoskins letters seeking payment in July and August 2013. He withdrew from representing Hoskins in 2014, and he sent her more letters asking for payment in March and April 2016, the court file shows.

The March 2016 letter offered Hoskins a chance to pay off her debt over a 10-year period with a 3 percent interest rate. The final invoice, dated Jan. 4, showed Hoskins owes Bartolomei $315,443.51, including 9 percent interest charged from April 2016.

Hoskins could not be reached for comment.

In July 2013, Hoskins was convicted of 52 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty for the neglect of many of her Morgan horses at her Aurora farm. The nonjury trial had dragged on for 14 months. Aurora Town Justice Douglas W. Marky found her not guilty of 22 other charges.

Marky placed Hoskins on probation, but she violated its terms and ended up serving two months in jail from December 2014 to February 2015, as a 90-day sentence was shortened for good behavior.

Marky also fined Hoskins $52,410, but in December 2015 converted all but $85 of that figure to a civil judgment. The $85 was all Hoskins had paid toward the fine in a two-year period.

Hoskins filed a defamation lawsuit against the SPCA and some of its employees and board members, which was dropped after the probation violation, according to Muscato.

Hoskins also got in trouble with Glownia, who approved the settlement of the civil lawsuits between Hoskins and the SPCA. She was supposed to reduce the size of her herd by selling 33 horses. Hoskins did not do that and was held in contempt of court by Glownia in October 2014, an order the judge lifted two months later.

Muscato said a Rochester woman who was supposed to buy 29 of Hoskins' horses changed her mind, leading to Hoskins' decision in late 2015 to move them back to her farm from a Lockport location where they had been held. Glownia then appointed two attorneys to carry out the sale of all 64 horses early last year.

Muscato handled the contempt of court matter and represented Hoskins in the court proceeding leading up to the horse sale.

Asked if Hoskins has paid him, Muscato said, "Beth and I are on the best of terms. She has made arrangements for paying."

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