In a process that approached group therapy more than a traditional judicial proceeding, Judge Pat O’Malley instructed Roy horsewoman Darlene Wilson to surrender her eleven horses as a result of her April 3 conviction on three counts of animal cruelty in the second degree. O’Malley made his ruling after a lengthy deliberation as part of Wilson’s sentencing appearance in District Court, Thursday, April 14.
The unusual proceedings unfolded as Pierce County deputy prosecutor Susan Mason delivered her sentencing recommendations and asked that Wilson be required to surrender her eleven horses that she still keeps on her property.
Following Mason’s recommendation, Darlene Wilson dropped a bombshell in the courtroom by announcing that she no longer owns the eleven horses, and incredibly claimed that she had sold the animals in December even though she apparently had never mentioned that fact to the court during her four-day trial in early April.
Wilson offered no proof of her claim, such as bill of sale, and further claimed that the new owner needed to keep the horses at Wilson’s Carousel Stables as she had no facilities of her own sufficient to provide independent care and shelter.
In addition, Wilson said the new owner, not identified by name in court Thursday, was now paying rent to Wilson, and she petitioned Judge O’Malley to allow the animals to stay because she needed the money to supplement her meager Social Security check, her only other source of income.
This announcement seemed to put Judge O’Malley into a bit of a tizzy, and he began a strategy session with the prosecution and defense attorneys as to how best to care for the horses and keep Ms. Wilson afloat financially. He suggested a plan by which PCAC could make impromptu appearances at Carousel Stables to insure that the horses were properly maintained.
Ms Mason strenuously objected to that notion, and to any other scheme that would allow Wilson to keep horses on her property.
“This would put us back at square one, you Honor,” Mason said. “Horses would still be at Darlene Wilson’s and they would be dependent upon others for their care – that’s what got us here in the first place.”
Mason added that even with Darlene’s conviction two weeks prior, Animal Control continues to receive complaints from the public about Wilson’s activities at Carousel Stables, and Mason specifically mentioned that Wilson had received more horses for boarding, with a current total of fourteen horses now stabled on Wilson’s property.
“I’m concerned of a repeat of the abuses, your Honor,” Mason declared.
In addition, both the defense and prosecution argued that any monitoring service conducted by the county’s animal control agency would ultimately prove to be unworkable because of legalities and staffing shortages.
At this point, O’Malley clearly realized it was time to make a definitive decision.
He ruled that Darlene can not own any horses for two years.
In addition, Judge O’Malley ordered that for the horses currently on the property to remain, Ms. Wilson had 90 days in which to craft a “proper management contract with a third party” to run the stabling operation. He specifically stated that this arrangement must have the owners(s) identified who will assume all responsibilities for their care and all corresponding liabilities, and the only role Ms. Wilson is to have with these horses is to be a landlord to the lessee(s).
He also ordered Ms. Wilson to allow Animal Control onto her property at any time of their choosing, and to cooperate fully with their efforts to monitor the care of any horses on the property.
Judge O’Malley further ruled that Ms Wilson is to appear back in his courtroom on July 15, 2011 to present these lease documents, “or the horses will have to go.”
Also, O’Malley levied a $1,000 fine per count, plus $350 in costs, for a total of $4,050 in penalties.
O’Malley also ordered Ms. Wilson to undergo a “mental health” assessment to “see how you’re coping.”
Although state law allows up to 90 days of incarceration per count, Judge O’Malley declined to impose any jail time on Ms. Wilson, citing her frail health would excessively burden the country’s limited resources.
Ms. Wilson also spoke at her sentencing, and maintained her innocence by claiming that others had failed to properly care for the horses. However, she concluded her remarks by saying, “I am truly sorry and I sincerely apologize.”
As for PCAC, their chief, Piece County Auditor Julie Anderson, told the Mountain News that her agency welcomes the opportunity to monitor conditions at Darlene Wilson’s.
“We’re highly invested in this case,” said Ms. Anderson. “We’ve put a lot of time into ensuring that these horses are cared for properly, and the court’s ruling will help us continue to do that.”
© 2011 The Mountain News
Editor’s Note: We apologize for the variations in font size. We’re having a problem with floating fonts in our formatting. If anyone has a suggestion on how to correct it, I would love to hear from you. – BAS.
Attorney at law
For more information, please see our ad in the column to the right. You may have to scroll up!