Case of animal cruelty to horses dismissed

LIHU‘E — After nearly two years of litigation in the 16-count animal-cruelty case involving horses, a 5th Circuit Court judge ruled the state has exceeded its time to bring the case to trial and dismissed the case, which was set for jury trial on May 29.

Chief Judge Randal Valenciano on Tuesday granted the motion of Lara Butler-Brady to have her charges dismissed due to the prosecution’s six-month time-limit violation of a right to a speedy trial.

The case is not over, however, and a new case is pending with the Attorney General as prosecutor.

The defense is required to file the motion for violation of Rule 48 of the Hawai‘i Codes of Penal Procedure. The court can dismiss charges if a trial is not commenced within 6 months.

Butler Brady was indicted on July 13, 2010 and 690 days had passed until the Tuesday hearing. Valenciano calculated that 507 days were charged to the defense, for motions and actions that delayed trial to their benefit.

The judge calculated that 183 days were charged to the state. This placed the prosecution in violation of the right to a speedy trial.

The question to dismiss charges with or without prejudice is at the court’s discretion. Valenciano said the dismissal was without prejudice, which allows the state to bring up charges again.

Defense counsel Craig De Costa argued for a dismissal with prejudice which would not allow the state to bring a new case. He said the prosecution has a lack of transparency in the months leading up to its recusal from the case on March 8.

The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney was aware of its potential conflicts for some time and chose to withhold information and exculpatory evidence from the defendant, De Costa said. This was enough to dismiss the case outright, he said.

Special Deputy Attorney General Sheri Lawson rested on the written filing in opposition to the dismissal with prejudice. She asked the court to stand by its without prejudice ruling.

Valenciano stood by the without prejudice ruling and said the state would need to file new misdemeanor charges in district court, where the case originated before Butler-Brady opted for a jury trial.

Valenciano said he did not order the Attorney General to continue with the case, but Lawson said she would file new charges on Wednesday.

Lawson is a deputy prosecuting attorney for the County of Hawai‘i, and was appointed special prosecutor to replace Kaua‘i’s Office of the Prosecuting Attorney after Valenciano granted the Kaua‘i  prosecutor’s motion for recusal.

Butler-Brady was charged with 16 counts of cruelty to animals in a 2010 case involving horses on the 165-acre Keapana Horsemanship riding stable in Hanama‘ulu. The horses were declared emaciated by the Humane Society after investigating complaints.

The horses remain in protective custody with the Kaua‘i Humane Society at its Puhi shelter, and through contacts with privately owned land. In past hearings the prosecutors said the care had surpassed $70,000.

Butler-Brady had faced a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Until a new case is filed she is no longer charged with the crimes.

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