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PETA lawyers appeal verdict

WINTON – The verdict has been appealed.

Attorneys for the two PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) employees found guilty Feb. 2 on littering charges have formally filed legal paperwork asking for the convictions to be vacated or to modify the sentences.

At the conclusion of the two-week trial (Jan. 23-Feb. 2) in Hertford County Criminal Superior Court, Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook were found guilty of one count each of littering, a misdemeanor. That charge stemmed from their June 15, 2005 arrest where the duo tossed seven bags of dead dogs into a private dumpster behind Piggly Wiggly in Ahoskie’s Newmarket Shopping Center.

After deliberating for three and one-half hours, a Hertford County jury delivered a unanimous not guilty verdict against both Hinkle and Cook on eight counts each of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Additionally, the jury cleared Hinkle of three felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense. A similar charge against Cook was dismissed prior to the jury deliberation.

On the guilty verdict of littering, 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. That work must be completed within 360 days of the probation period.

Judge Grant also ordered PETA to forfeit the van Hinkle and Cook were operating on June 15, 2005 to the Ahoskie Police Department.

In filing a motion for appropriate relief, defense attorneys Jack Warmack Jr. and Blair Brown (counsel for Hinkle) and Mark Edwards (representing Cook) said the littering convictions must be vacated because the State failed to prove that the defendants violated North Carolina’s littering statute and due to the court failing to properly instruct the jury on the offense of littering.

The defense attorneys said under the terms of the state’s littering statute, the placement of the discarded material (the bags of dead dogs) into a litter receptacle (the dumpster) is not littering.

The motion also asked if the court does not vacate the littering convictions, then the sentences handed down by Judge Grant be modified in accordance with the maximums allowed under the state’s littering statute. Specifically, those modifications address the suspended jail sentence, supervised probation, restitution, community service hours and vehicle forfeiture.

According to North Carolina judicial proceedings, a Superior Court Judge will be assigned to hear the motion for appropriate relief.