Judge delivers maximum sentence, and fierce denunciation, in horse deaths case

Judge Robert Freehill calls Jeanne Ryan's behavior 'heinous,' says it's the worst case of animal abuse he's ever seen on the bench


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Photos



  • Jeanne Ryan at her sentencing Sept. 6 (Photo by Cheryl James)




  • Cheryl James and Beverly Sharpe hug outside the courthouse before the sentencing (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Heather Sullivan and Cindy O’Brien at the courthouse Sept. 6 (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Jeanne Ryan at her sentencing Sept. 6 (Photo by Cheryl James)



The sentence

Jeanne Ryan was sentenced to two years in jail for the first nine counts in the indictment, and one year for counts 11 to 20.
The actual time of incarceration is two years with credit for time served. The two-year term and the one-year term are to be served concurrently.
For the tenth count of her conditional discharge, Ryan is forbidden to own, care for, or have custody of animals for 15 years after her release.
She must also enter her name in Orange County's animal abuse registry.


By Frances Ruth Harris

— Wearing shackles and an orange jumpsuit with "Orange County Jail" printed on the back, convicted felon Jeanne Ryan was led by a guard into the courtroom on Sept. 6.

She listened as her attorney, Michael Sussman, explained why her sentencing — two years in jail for the first nine counts in the indictment, and one year for counts 11 to 20 — was unfair.

The reasons Sussman gave were familiar from her bench trial for the deaths of nine of her horses, who were discovered last summer starved to death in a locked barn. Sussman called the people's case "meritless." He said Ryan has owned animals for years; that her son, who was tasked with caring for the horses, is an unstable character who abused drugs and poisoned the horses with antifreeze; that she did not intentionally killed the horses; that her mental health failed her.

He also said Freehill should have disclosed that his wife is president of the humane society in Middletown. He wouldn't have advised a bench trial with this judge if he had known, he said.

Chief District Attorney Christopher Borek responded that there was no legal reason to delay sentencing.

Judge: Ryan alone is to blameJudge Robert Freehill was fierce in his denunciation of Ryan. He said the horses died in a particularly horrific way. In all his years on the bench, he said, he had never seen such behavior, and called it "heinous."

If any case ever called out for the maximum penalty, said Freehill, this is it. He said the one living horse found in the barn was saved because of the efforts of the Goshen town police and the Hudson Valley ASPCA.

Freehill said Ryan's son was doing well now that he is out of Ryan's household, which is Argus Farm, on Schoolhouse Road in Goshen. Ryan alone is responsible, he said, and used her health as an excuse. She did not have a job to occupy her, yet she never went out to see that her son was doing what she had asked him to do, he said.

Freehill said he had never witnessed a more depraved animal abuse case in all his years on the bench.

Addressing Ryan, Freehill said she had showed no remorse and blamed her crimes on others. She allowed her horses to subsist on minimal food and no water, in a barn piled with 18 inches of manure, and then she concocted the antifreeze theory.

For the tenth count of her conditional discharge, Ryan will be forbidden to own, care for, or have custody of animals for 15 years after her release. She must also enter her name in Orange County's animal abuse registry.

The actual time of incarceration is two years, with credit for time served. The two-year term and the one-year term are to be served concurrently. A restitution order will go before a hearing on Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.

Advocates celebrateAnimal welfare advocates, some under the banner Justice for the Horses at Argus Farm, celebrated the sentencing.

"A person who took an oath to uphold the law should pay the top penalty when they break the law," said Cheryl James. She passed out pins to those entering the courtroom that said "Stop animal cruelty."

James and Beverly Sharpe said they felt compelled to be present at the sentencing, to know that Ryan received the maximum allowed by law.

Gary Neillands used to fly and ship horses on Long Island. Referring to Ryan's former employment as an NYPD officer, he said, "A criminal cop is worse than being a criminal."

Darlene Curesky said two years in jail is just not enough time to pay for Ryan's crimes.

"We are paying for her jail time," Curesky said. "She will get better treatment than she gave the horses." Editor's note: This article has been revised from the original to correct the number of horses that died.



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