Farm owner accused in horses' deaths case may face felony charge

Prosecutor blocks lesser, misdemeanor plea: Jeanne Ryan will return to court on Nov. 8


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Photos



  • From left: Andy Kass, Executive Assistant District Attorney for Orange County; Michael Sussman, Jeanne Ryan's attorney; and Jeanne Ryan, owner of Argus Farm (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Horse advocates came from near and far to Wednesday's hearing (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Karen Ditacconi wept as she appealed to Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borek to buy back the horse she sold to Ryan (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Carol Maloney, Deb Lindeman, Maryanne Zambrzycki, Erica Karl, and Fran Pere carried homemade signs in a protest outside town court before Wednesday's hearing (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • People started to assemble outside town court two hours before Wednesday's hearing (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Cheryl James, BJ Ehrhardt, Janet Hunt and Barbara Arent carried signs before Wednesday's hearing (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Maryanne Zambrzycki spoke up on a mega phone with a siren (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Cindy O'Brien, farm manager at Pets Alive in Middletown, attended Wednesday's hearing (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Defense attorney Michael Sussman (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Luki O'Connor from North Salem, N.Y., to attend the hearing. Jeanne Ryan and her companions threatened her and called her names in the parking lot afterward. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • From left: Andy Kass, Executive Assistant District Attorney for Orange County; Michael Sussman, Jeanne Ryan's attorney; and Jeanne Ryan, owner of Argus Farm (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)



By Frances Ruth Harris

— Prosecutors are seeking felony charges against the Goshen farm owner accused in the deaths of 11 horses.

In town court Wednesday, Executive Assistant District Attorney Andy Kass used a statute in NYS criminal law allowing the prosecutor to request and

adjournment for the purpose of presenting the matter to the action of the grand jury.

to stop Jeanne Ryan from pleading guilty to a lesser, misdemeanor charge.

Many in the community see state law as too weak in protecting horses. Gene Hecht, Chief of Hudson Valley SPCA Humane Law Enforcement, told The Chronicle at the time of Ryan's arrest that state law is more strict in protecting companion animals than farm animals, like Ryan's horses.

Ryan, a former officer with the New York Police Department, owns Argus Farm, located at 132 Gate Schoolhouse, where the carcasses and skeletal remains of 11 horses were recently discovered. The remains of the first four horses found were in a barn, where prosecutors say they were trapped and starved.

The Orange County District Attorney’s office said it will notify Michael Sussman, Ryan’s attorney, of its intention to bring the case before a grand jury to allow consideration of felony charges.

Both parties will return to court at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8, when the district attorney’s office will report on the validity of a grand jury hearing. 

Several people close to the case who did not want to be identified told The Chronicle that on Sept. 6, a law enforcement agency went to the Ryan property with yet another warrant.

Sussman told The Chronicle that the law enforcement agency took some of his client’s property during the visit. He declined to specify what was taken or to comment further.

'Lock her up!'Protestors and others horrified at the horses' deaths began to assemble outside town court at 11 a.m., two hours before Ryan was scheduled to appear.

Maryann Zambrzycki spoke over a megaphone with a siren. Carol Maloney, Deb Lindeman, Maryanne Zambrzycki, Erica Karl, and Fran Pere carried homemade signs. Some chanted, "Lock her up!"

“Justice for the Horses" read the signs carried by Cheryl James, BJ Ehrhardt, Janet Hunt, and Barbara Arent.

"I’m appalled that she can still keep horses on her property," said Ehrhardt, of Fox Hedge Farm.

"Laws need to be changed," Arent said. “I’m here to see there’s justice for the animals.”

Janet Hunt said she wants "to see someone speak for the animals.”

Kate Delcorpo said, “I’m here to make sure no one else gets away with this.”

Carolyn Quick said, “Ryan needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The horses were on her property. She’s responsible. There’s no excuse for this heinous act.”

Anxious about survivorsOutside in the parking lot after the hearing, Karen Ditacconi was crying. She had sold a horse to Ryan. She worried about its fate.

She wept as she presented documents to Christopher P. Borek, Chief Assistant District Attorney, and asked if she could buy her horse back for $5,000, the original price. She said Ryan had told her she was buying the horse for a youngster to show at equine events.

Hecht said last month that after Ryan's arrest, his office was flooded with calls about the welfare of horses sold to Ryan. One seller called The Chronicle for information.

Luki O'Connor came to Goshen from North Salem, N.Y., to attend Wednesday's court date. As they all walked out toward their cars afterward, Ryan and two companions threatened O'Connor. One companion yelled at O'Connor: "You bitch!"

"What?" said O'Connor, surprised.

All three, including Ryan, repeatedly gave O'Connor the finger. One said to O'Connor, "You come near me, and I'll punch you in the face."

At that point, a state trooper approached and escorted O'Connor to her car.

One of Ryan's companion's then yelled: "Look at her. The bitch needs an escort."

The trooper waited with O'Connor until Ryan and her companions left the parking lot.

O’Connor said she felt threatened and perplexed by the group's reaction. O'Connor said she doesn’t know Ryan, and came only to support the horses.

Editor's note: This article has been updated.











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