SALEM, Ohio – After several hours of testimony Aug. 7, attorneys on both sides of an animal cruelty case in southeastern Pennsylvania left the courtroom hoping to reach a settlement.
“I think based on what was presented yesterday (Aug. 7), it became more evident to the prosecution that an attempt to settle would be advantageous,” said Chris Patterson, the attorney representing H. Glenn Esbenshade.
Esbenshade is the owner of Esbenshade Egg Farms in Mount Joy, Pa. In January, he pleaded not guilty to 35 counts of animal cruelty.
Carter Dillard, a Humane Society of the United States staff attorney who is helping with the case, said the decision to attempt a settlement was based on the fact that the case wasn’t finished at the hearing.
“It’s simply more of the fact that the case was taking longer than expected,” Dillard said.
Thrown out. Esbenshade is now facing 34 counts of animal cruelty, as one of the charges was thrown out during the hearing. Patterson said the charge did not contain a day, date or time.
The farm’s manager, Jay Musser, is also charged with 35 counts of animal cruelty.
Each charge carries a fine of $50-750 and the possibility of 90 days in jail.
The animal cruelty charges came after Johnna Seeton, a Pennsylvania-certified humane officer, saw a video depicting inhumane conditions at the farm. The video allegedly shows over-crowded pens, ill and injured birds, hens impaled on cage wires and birds living with decomposing bodies of other birds.
Activist. The video was shot by John Brothers, an undercover animal rights activist who posed as an employee on the farm from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, 2005. Brothers is affiliated with an animal rights group called Compassion Over Killing, which focuses on cruelty to animals in agriculture and promotes vegetarianism.
The defendants’ attorneys tried to have the video evidence suppressed in April, claiming it violated search-and-seizure laws. But District Judge Jayne F. Duncan said the video was obtained legally and admitted it as evidence.
During the hearing, the court heard testimony from Brothers and animal welfare expert Ian Duncan (no relation to the judge).
Round two. This is the second time attorneys have tried to reach a settlement. The first attempt, in April, was unsuccessful.
Patterson said some “rough parameters” for a settlement had been established as of Aug. 8, but the two sides still need to “hammer out the specifics.”
The case is being prosecuted by private practice attorney Christopher P. Lyden because the district attorney’s office does not handle animal cruelty cases.
Patterson said the case will go before Duncan again in October, regardless of whether or not a settlement is reached.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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