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Man donates to settle poisoning case

June 17, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Charges that an E. Russell Hicks Middle School science teacher and Hagerstown landlord fatally poisoned his neighbor's dog last summer were placed on an inactive docket Thursday in exchange for a $4,000 check to the Humane Society of Washington County.

Courtney Dale Beard, 50, of 20401 Chuck Lane east of Hagerstown, was convicted in Washington County District Court in December 2004 of malicious destruction of property worth less than $500 and animal cruelty in connection with poisoning Eric and Shawn Rosenthal's miniature poodle, Charlie, by putting a substance containing antifreeze in the Rosenthals' Ayoub Lane yard in the Black Rock Estates neighborhood in June 2004.

Beard was not at Washington County Circuit Court for the Thursday hearing, which was scheduled for an appeal of the District Court conviction.

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In his motion to place the case on the inactive docket, Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said he chose to do so "in light of the circumstantial nature of this case and a donation to the Humane Society that far exceeds the fines" that are available for the crimes.

"It certainly does more good for the Humane Society than certainly an acquittal would do and more than a potential conviction would do," Michael said after the hearing.

A stet is a conditional, indefinite stay of all further proceedings. The case can be brought up again within a year's time, and for good cause after that for up to three years, Michael said after the hearing.

Washington County Public Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said she could not comment on the case because it concerns personnel.

Eric Rosenthal, 40, said after the hearing that he is glad the case finally is resolved.

"In my opinion, he was found guilty in District Court and, at least in this way, some good will come out of a bad situation," he said.

Rosenthal got Charlie from the Humane Society and said he feels the donation is appropriate.

Paul Miller, executive director of the local Humane Society, said Charlie is a part of the shelter's family.

The donation will be used to help animals, he said. Miller said the Rosenthals will be consulted on how to use the funds.

Miller felt that the outcome of the hearing Thursday sends a message that if "you take into your hands" an animal's life, "you will to the full extent be prosecuted."

For the December District Court ruling, made by retired Baltimore County District Judge John C. Coolahan sitting here, Beard was fined $600 and ordered to attend anger management classes.

Beard was ordered to spend six months on supervised probation and given a suspended 30-day jail sentence on the malicious destruction of property conviction.

Several of the Rosenthals' neighbors testified in that hearing that Beard, whose Black Rock Estates property borders the Rosenthals' backyard, has a history of yelling at barking dogs in the neighborhood. One neighbor, Carolyn Moser-Smith, testified that Beard yelled in a "panicked and desperate" way at the Rosenthals' dogs, Charlie and Nikki, the night before the dogs showed signs of being poisoned.

Charlie, who was taken to a Manhattan veterinary hospital for treatment following symptoms of poisoning, was put to sleep after his condition did not improve, Eric Rosenthal testified. The other dog, Nikki, survived.

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