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PETA workers cleared of major charges

WINTON – “Justice was served.”

With that said, Adria Hinkle left the Hertford County Superior Courtroom here yesterday (Friday) as a woman vindicated of all but one of the charges against her.

After deliberating for three and one-half hours, a Hertford County jury delivered a unanimous not guilty verdict against both Hinkle and her former PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) co-worker, Andrew Cook.

Friday’s verdict, which came-in at 6:11 p.m., ended the longest courtroom trial in Hertford County history, one that drew major attention from local, regional and national media.

Following motions heard late Thursday afternoon, the charges against Hinkle and Cook were changed from felony to misdemeanor animal cruelty (eight counts each). Hinkle also stood charged with three felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense (a similar charge against Cook was dismissed prior to the jury deliberation).

The verdict was not guilty on the misdemeanor animal cruelty charges (against both) and Hinkle’s false pretense charges.

Each defendant was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of littering. On that charge, Superior Court Judge Cy Grant sentenced each to 10 days in the Hertford County Jail, suspended upon 12 months of supervised probation.

They were each fined $1,000 and ordered to split restitution in the amount of $5,975.10 associated with the clean-up of their act of littering plus storage of evidence.

By further order of Judge Grant, each will perform 50 hours of community service work.

Hinkle and Cook were arrested and charged after disposing of dead animals in an Ahoskie dumpster on June 15, 2005. Earlier that day, while serving as Community Animal Project (CAP) field workers with PETA, the two euthanized animals at the Town of Windsor Animal Shelter and the Bertie County Animal Shelter. Additionally, the two euthanized a mother cat and two kittens picked-up at the Ahoskie Animal Hospital (AAH).

During the two-week trial, District 6B Attorney Valerie Mitchell Asbell attempted to prove that Hinkle deceived Bertie Animal Control Officer Barry Anderson and AAH employees by leading them to believe that the animals collected by the CAP workers would be taken to PETA headquarters in Norfolk, Va. There, attempts would be made to adopt out the healthy animals.

Apparently, the jury didn’t buy it as all 12 raised their hands in agreement of the not guilty verdicts on the major charges.

Response from PETA was one of relief.

“I feel justice was served,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, CAP Supervisor. “We can put this behind us and get on with our good work.”

She continued, “There were no intentions of cruelty, only good intentions to help animals which these two young people had dedicated their life to.”

Meanwhile, Asbell was upbeat, despite having the verdict favor the defense.

“I respect the jury’s verdict and decision regarding the facts in this case,” Asbell said. “This entire situation was very unfortunate for the good folks at Ahoskie Animal Hospital, Barry Anderson and the citizens of Bertie County.

Asbell concluded by saying, “I want to commend (Ahoskie Police) Detective Sgt. Jeremy Roberts, the Ahoskie Police Department, Barry Anderson and the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office for the hard work and dedication they exemplified in this case. Our citizens are very fortunate to have such dedicated law enforcement officers.”