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Defense motions to dismiss all charges

WINTON – The trial against two PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) employees will continue in the aftermath of a defense motion to dismiss all charges.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Cy Grant ruled yesterday (Monday) afternoon that he will reserve his ruling on a defense motion made by Blair Brown to strike all charges.

Brown, one of three attorneys representing PETA employee Adria Hinkle who stands charged in the case, entered his motion moments after District 6B Attorney Valerie Mitchell Asbell concluded the state’s evidence. Brown motioned for all 21 counts of felony animal cruelty, three counts of obtaining property by false pretense and seven counts of littering to be dismissed.

Brown suggested that the state’s evidence failed to prove malicious intent by his client. He said just because his client did not legally have the right in North Carolina to administer the drugs used to euthanize animals, that did not prove malice. He added that expert testimony heard to date confirmed the drugs that were used are the most humane way to kill an animal.

As far as the false pretense charges, Brown said the state failed to show his client deceived anyone. Further, Brown said employees at Ahoskie Animal Hospital (AAH) were not induced by Hinkle to release a mother cat and two kittens into her care. Those cats were later found dead, part of a larger number of animals euthanized by Hinkle on June 15, 2005.

As far as the littering charge, Brown said according to the letter of the law, his client did not litter because she placed the bags of dead animals into a proper receptacle (a dumpster).

Mark Edwards, the defense attorney for co-defendant Andrew Cook, entered a similar motion to dismiss all charges.

In her argument against the motion, Asbell said the state did show malice or ill will based on statements and actions by the two defendants.

However, Judge Grant questioned Asbell’s assumption.

“What was the ill will,” the judge asked. “I don’t see it. What was their state of mind in killing the animals?”

Grant closed by saying, “I will reserve my ruling (on the defense motion) until all evidence has been presented. I have to hear why they were killing the animals.”

Earlier during Monday’s trial, AAH owner Dr. Pat Proctor along with employees Ashton Sumner and Tonya Northcott testified on behalf of the state in regards to the mother cat and two kittens picked-up by Hinkle and Cook.

Evidence was also brought out about Dr. Proctor’s involvement with PETA in regards to being paid to spay and neuter animals at his office as well as his agreement to euthanize animals at the Hertford County Pound.

The defense called its first witness Monday afternoon as former Bertie County Deputy and Windsor Police Officer Susan Belch testified as to the deplorable conditions at the Bertie Animal Shelter in 2000.

Belch said she attempted on numerous occasions to bring the plight of the shelter to county officials, including dead animals, lack of food and clean water, an abundance of ticks and a large amount of feces. She said that despite her concerns, no improvements were made and she eventually made PETA officials in Norfolk, Va. aware of the problems in Bertie County.

Belch, who briefly volunteered at the Bertie shelter in 2003, left law enforcement in 2005.