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Judge upholds the conviction of an Inwood, W.Va., woman ordered to pay $114,883 in restitution for animal care

August 14, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- The conviction of an Inwood, W.Va., woman who was ordered to pay $114,883 in restitution for Berkeley County Animal Control's care of 149 dogs seized from a canine shelter in 2006 has been upheld by a state trial court judge.

The appeal filed by attorney Paul G. Taylor on behalf of Mara Spade, 63, was dismissed by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes on Aug. 8, according to an order filed Monday with Berkeley County Circuit Clerk Virginia Sine's office.

Wilkes cited a section of the state Rules of Criminal Procedure, which he said didn't provide an avenue for Spade to file the appeal after she entered a no-contest plea to one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty in December 2007.

Individuals convicted of a misdemeanor in a magistrate court can appeal their convictions to circuit court unless they are represented by legal counsel at the time a guilty plea is entered, according to the code section cited by Wilkes in his order.

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In a sentencing hearing Feb. 4, Spade was ordered by Berkeley County Magistrate Joan V. Bragg not to have any contact with animals for five years and was placed on two years of probation. A 90-day jail sentence was suspended.

In March, Bragg ordered Spade to pay the restitution, which Taylor said he intended to challenge during the February hearing.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Harvey argued in March that Taylor had the right to contest the amount of expenses the county said it incurred from the time the first of 149 dogs at Second Chance Rescue Inc. off Harlan Springs Road was seized in May 2006 until the end of February 2007, but it was never challenged and the defendant missed the deadline for an appeal.

Taylor argued that his client entered the no-contest plea with the understanding that she would be able to contest the state's restitution claim.

The dogs were released from the county's custody at the end of February 2007 after Spade failed to post a court-ordered bond to cover $114,883.77 in "actual expenses."

The state based its restitution claim on a $5 daily fee charged for each seized dog's care and veterinary services that amounted to $164,883 while they were in the custody of Berkeley County Animal Control, according to court records.

It was not immediately clear whether Taylor would again appeal his client's case to the state's high court.

The animal cruelty charge stemmed from a veterinarian's visit to the Second Chance Rescue on June 29, 2006.

The shelter had "inadequate ventilation, horrible sanitation, inadequate water and food," the veterinarian wrote in a handwritten statement.

Five dogs died while in the county's custody, officials have said.

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