Saturday, 15 June 2024

Horse neglect defendant faced similar charges in prior case


Langan's comments followed the setting of March 29 as a trial assignment date for Sanders and 8:15 a.m. April 3 in Division 3 of Lake County Superior Court in Lakeport by Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom.

Langan declined to discuss the sentence his office is seeking in the case, but said, "We filed a felony charge and (unlike some other counties) we don't sentence-bargain. Right now, we're looking for a sentence for the crime that we've alleged occurred.

"If she (Sanders) pleaded guilty to the felony charge, which is count one, it would be referred to the probation officer here in this county for a pre-sentence report and evaluation. Then, at a sentencing hearing we would argue for whatever sentence we think is appropriate."

At a minimum, the range of sentences for the charges against Sanders, Langan added, include local probation supervised by a local probation officer in Lake County, which may or may not include a year in jail -- if the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor.

"Or," he said, "it could be a prison sentence, which has a range of 16 months, two years or three years."

Two factors at this point pose a possible impact on the people's case against Sanders.

The first is the likely need for Langan to call in veterinarians who saw the horses in a field where Langan kept them and could testify to their condition. This would be in lieu of qualified law enforcement officers, who normally are allowed to relate to what they saw on a hearsay basis.

The law, explained Langan, allows officers who have been through training courses and have five years of experience to testify on the basis of hearsay statements.

"In this particular case, because Animal Control investigated it, I don't believe that this particular officer can testify at preliminary hearings, which would mean that you have to call on veterinarians, who are professionals, to testify."

The consequence, he said, is that testimony by a qualified officer which would require only a little more than an hour to complete "could stretch into a day or longer."

The second factor is a previous incident in which Sanders was cited for alleged mistreatment that was remarkably like the present one, right down to the number of horses involved – 64.

In that incident, occurring seven years earlier than this case, Sanders was charged in a complaint dated May 25, 1999, with providing "insufficient food and insufficient care" to her horses.

In the present case, a woman who received two of the more than 60 horses that Sanders disposed during a Lake County Animal Care & Control investigation said that a stallion she received was 200 pounds underweight. In the 1999 case 52 horses were described as underweight and five very underweight.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins recalled that the earlier case was dismissed in early 2001.

"A deal was set up with Animal Control and they were satisfied that they could go onto the premises anytime," Hopkins said. "Regular visits were to be scheduled and she would be available to make sure things were going well. That was what we wanted to accomplish and we were satisfied with that at the time.

"That (case) was dismissed because Animal Control felt that they had control of the situation and there were extenuating circumstances involving her divorce, running out of money and so on," Hopkins added.

Langan said he didn't know if the 1999 case is going to be admissible in the forthcoming proceedings.

"There hasn’t been a ruling, but certainly we will be filing paperwork to try to get that," he said. "I don’t think at this point that it's proper for me to comment on anything regarding any priors. There are no priors alleged on the complaint at present.”

He added, "She (Sanders) has never been convicted of anything, so there is no prior that we are alleging. There are certain things we are going to introduce into evidence, but I don’t want to try this case in newspaper, so I'm not going to discuss any of the evidence here.”

E-mail John Lindblom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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