ITHACA, N.Y. — A Newfield duo who were found with 28 live and three dead animals in a trailer in November were in court Thursday afternoon to consider plea deals.
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Courtney Cotter and Kevin Pierce are both charged with 31 counts for overdriving, torturing and injuring animals; failure to provide proper sustenance and 31 counts for failure to provide proper food and drink to impounded animal.
Cotter accepted a plea deal Thursday of three years of probation — including therapy — and no jail time. The probation permits SPCA investigators to go onto her property and ensure she does not have more than three animals.
Judge William Chernish said Cotter is visually impaired, adding, “She has a little less culpability in this.”
Pierce, however, was offered a plea deal with a split sentence: 90 days in jail and three years of probation.
His attorney, Jim Hickey, argued that the plea sentence was unfair, “I think it’s cruel. I think it shows a lack of perception.”
He said Cotter depends solely on Pierce for her well-being and would not be able to pay bills or function on a day-to-day basis without him. He also said that his client works doing general repair job for a woman.
“This isn’t big time crime here,” Hickey said. “If he messes up (on probation), you can put him in jail for up to a year.”
Chernish said, “I am torn at the moment.”
He said that in addition to the Newfield crimes, the couple was previously convicted on similar charges.
In 2010, officials seized 98 animals from a one-bedroom trailer at 18 Creamery Road in Brooktondale.
According to court documents, officials took 36 cats, 51 dogs, 6 guinea pigs, three chinchillas and two rats from the residence. A dead cat and two dead guinea pigs were found at the trailer, and one dog had to be euthanized for displaying “extreme aggression.”
Chernish offered to allow Pierce to serve his jail sentence on weekends only and Assistant District Attorney Gary Surdell agreed to keep the plea offer open until the next court date in April.
Hickey said he and his client would consider the deal and see if it’s possible to find alternate means for Cotter to be cared for on those days.
After court, Tompkins SPCA humane investigators Joseph Hoffer and Dan Collins said the SPCA hopes that as a repeat offender, jail time is involved in Pierce’s sentence.
“It is very difficult to get any jail time for animal cruelty cases,” Hoffer said.
The split sentence, he said, would not only show Pierce that animal hoarding is unacceptable, but the probation would also require him to seek therapy.
“I’m hoping that they can get the help that they need,” Collins said.
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