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Guilty plea plays into criminal defense strategy

Readers from Independence Township may recall a case in which a family was accused of both child neglect and animal abuse. The case received a high degree of media attention due to the large number of animals that the New Jersey family housed on their property, as well as the details concerning the living conditions of those animals. The case has now come to a conclusion after the couple entered a guilty plea to reduced charges. That criminal defense strategy will allow them to avoid the cost, stress and uncertainties associated with a criminal trial, and will give the family the chance to move on with their lives.

The matter originated when police were called to investigate a report of five loose pigs in an area roadway. The officers were able to secure those animals and, upon returning them to the owners, discovered many more animals living in conditions that were deemed unfit. In all, the family had nearly 200 animals living on their property, including goats, chickens, geese, guinea pigs, hamsters, cows and partridges.

In addition, dozens of animal carcasses were present on the property. Because there were two minor children residing on the same property, officials accused the couple of child endangerment, as well as animal cruelty. During the recent hearing, the man stated that many of those animals had died during last year's harsh weather and that he did not intend to harm or kill any of the animals in his care. However, both he and the woman charged in the case admitted that their actions contributed to the death of the animals, and that allowing the children to have access to the carcasses subjected them to health risks.

By entering the guilty plea as part of their criminal defense strategy, the New Jersey couple will not have to stand trial in the matter, and will be sentenced only for animal cruelty and child neglect. The end result may be probation for both parties, as well as a lifetime ban on animal care or ownership. It is unclear whether one or both individuals are the parent of either child, as reports only state that they were under a "legal duty" to provide care for the children, ages 3 and 10. Both children were placed in the care of relatives after the initial charges were filed, and their future living arrangements are not yet known.

Source: njherald.com, "Independence couple pleads guilty to animal cruelty, child neglect charges", Diana Goovaerts, June 26, 2015

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