Jeanne Ryan found guilty on all counts in horse abuse case

10 felonies and 10 misdemeanors: Ryan must surrender all animals in accordance with Rocky's Law


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  • Assistant District Attorney Anika Mohammed and Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borek at the Tuesday press conference. Justice for the Horses of Argus Farm Facebook page overflowed with praise for the two prosecutors minutes after the verdict was announced. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler at Tuesday's press conference (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Jeanne Ryan is pictured on the right after leaving court on the last day of her bench trial last month. Also pictured is her husband, Stanley Dickel, and a friend. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




Editor's note: This story has been updated with coverage of the District Attorney's press conference.

By Frances Ruth Harris

— Jeanne Ryan was handcuffed in a packed courtroom on Tuesday and taken to jail after being found guilty of all the charges against her, in a case that started last July when 10 of her horses were found starved to death in a locked barn.

Spectators wept with relief. Some ran into the hallway, where they cried more openly.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Freehill proclaimed Ryan guilty of 10 felonies and 10 misdemeanors. Her bench trial involved nine days of testimony that were filled with anguished recollections and harrowing images of abused horses. Ryan will be in jail until her sentencing, which is set for Sept. 6.

Her attorney, Michael Sussman, asked that Ryan be allowed to remain home at Argus Farm, on Gate Schoolhouse Road in Goshen, until her sentencing date. But the judge refused the request because, he said, Ryan had left the country during the time of the trial.

Ryan must surrender all of her animals in accordance with Rocky's Law, a 2015 Orange County law that requires any county resident convicted of animal abuse to register with the Sheriff's office. Convicted abusers stay on the public registry for 15 years but are reinstated for life if they are convicted a second time. They are also not allowed to obtain animals while on the registry, and they or anyone who gives or sells an abuser an animal during this time may be fined up to $5,000.

Rocky's Law applies to all animals, pets and farm animals alike, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borek, who prosecuted the case.

Those who had been attending the trial, including members of the grassroots group Justice for Horses of Argus Farm, said they were satisfied their voices were heard.

DA pressured to hold Ryan accountableOrange County District Attorney David Hoovler held a press conference after the verdict to hail the work of Borek and Assistant District Attorney Anika Mohammed, who prosecuted the case with Borek.

After Ryan's horses were discovered dead last summer, the equine community erupted and pushed for justice. They complained on Facebook and challenged Hoovler. Some said they would not vote for him if Ryan were not held accountable.

A grand jury hearing followed. Judge Robert Freehill heard the case during a bench trial. Freehill's wife, Marlene K. Freehill, is president of the board of directors of the Middletown Humane Society.

Hoovler did not disappoint the animal advocates.

He said Borek drove the case over many months, proving "systematic starvation."

"Borek, is a fine prosecutor," Hoovler said. He asked the press to be sure to note this in their reporting.

When Borek wanted a forensic entomologist hired, Hoovler said he gave him the go-ahead, with his blessings.

Minutes after the verdict, the Justice for the Horses of Argus Farm Facebook page filled with more than 50 plaudits for Borek and Mohammed, commending their commitment and hard work.

John Sibley, administrator of the page, wrote that Hoovler's office "did a fantastic job. These are politicians and they work for us — they need to hear our support when they're doing the will of the people. I think Hoovler has my vote for all time now.:)"

Sussman continues to blame Jimmy McSwigin, Ryan's son, for the horses' fate. And he told The Chronicle that he questions why five people — including law enforcement officers, a veterinarian, and an investigator from the ASPCA — would leave living horses in Ryan's care if they believed she had tortured her other horses to death.

Sussman said he will meet with Ryan regarding an appeal and will follow her guidance.

During the press conference, Hoovler and Borek pointed to abundant evidence, including testimony from a forensic entomologist, that Ryan "systematically starved the horses." Editor's note: This story has been updated.



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