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W.Va. man pleads no contest to charges he stabbed horses

March 12, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Although he and family members later proclaimed his innocence, a Hedgesville, W.Va., man charged with stabbing three horses in fall 2002 pleaded no contest Thursday morning to one count of animal cruelty.

After entering the plea in Berkeley County Magistrate Court, Bradford Hall, 54, of Conservation Drive, was ordered to pay a $300 fine and $1,331 in restitution for veterinarian costs and boarding fees required after the stabbing.

A horse owner himself, Magistrate Harry Snow told Hall he hopes nothing similar happens in the future - "if it happened," he said. A no-contest plea means Hall did not admit guilt, but is stating he will offer no defense.

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After writing a check for the restitution, Hall said he decided to accept a plea bargain because he cannot afford to continue paying an attorney to fight the charges.

Hall's sons said their father is too laid back to injure an animal. Alec Hall, 17, and Zack Hall, 16, said they chose to live with their father following their parents' divorce.

"If my dad was a bad person, I wouldn't be living with him," said Zack Hall. "There's two sides to this story that people don't hear about."

Under the terms of the plea agreement, seven other charges filed against Bradford Hall - three felony counts of malicious maiming of an animal, one felony count of conspiracy to commit malicious maiming of an animal, two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals - were dismissed.

Assistant Prosecutor Betsy Giggenbach said the plea bargain was necessary, given a lack of evidence.

The knife used to stab the three horses, two of which belonged to Hall's ex-wife, was never found. Giggenbach said the state's main pieces of evidence were two statements, both of which were deemed to be unreliable.

One of the statements was given by a woman Hall was dating at the time, Julie Corbin Creswell. She has since married Hall and recanted her earlier statement that she drove Hall to the pasture and waited while he stabbed the horses, Giggenbach said.

The second statement came from a witness who was paid $100 by Katherine Freeman, the owner of the horses. Freeman had offered a $100 reward for information and paid it to the man, Giggenbach said.

"That's tainted evidence," she said.

Giggenbach said credit should be given to Berkeley County Animal Control Officer J.W. Ramos, who investigated the case.

"I think it's fairly amazing we got convictions," Giggenbach said. "It was a reasonable outcome. I think it's a victory."

Freeman, however, has criticized the prosecutor's office and said a more serious punishment should have been applied. Giggenbach countered that her ethical duty as a prosecutor is to move forward with cases that have sufficient evidence, not circumstantial evidence.

Hall's co-defendent and wife, Julie Corbin Hall, 44, pleaded no contest on Tuesday to one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals. She was ordered to pay a $250 fine and $120 in court costs.

No jail time was imposed on either Bradford or Julie Hall.

The three horses were stabbed on Nov. 27, 2002. Bradford Hall and Julie Hall were initially charged on Dec. 1, 2003. Additional charges were filed against Julie Hall on Dec. 18.

Although the horses were initially skittish around people afterward, they have since become more at ease, Freeman said.

The third horse involved, a breeding stock mare, belonged to David Greenfield, a friend of Freeman.

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