Thoroughbred Breeder Gets Maximum Sentence for Neglect

Citing a "failure to recognize" bad acts and a "lack of remorse," Judge George J. Pulver Jr. on May 18 handed down the maximum possible sentence to prominent Thoroughbred owner and breeder Ernest Paragallo. Convicted on 33 counts of animal neglect, a Class A misdemeanor, Paragallo was sentenced to two years in jail and ordered to pay fines totaling $33,000 ($1,000 for each count) and restitution for the care of emaciated horses removed a year ago from Paragallo's Center Brook Farm near Climax, N.Y. The fine and the restitution, in an amount to be determined this summer, must be paid no later than Sept. 1, 2010.

"Mr. Paragallo," Judge Pulver said before imposing sentence, "your moral compass is out of kilter and points you in improper directions. Your sense of integrity, your code of conduct, your perception of right and wrong, was perhaps formed by your days on either mean streets and/or Wall Street. Money, the 'bottom line,' and opulence in your mind trumps morality, honesty, and civility."

Quoting St. Francis of Assisi, Judge Pulver added: "It has been said, 'If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you'll have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.'"

Paragallo's horses have earned more than $20 million and he owns a half-interest in Unbridled's Song, a successful sire which stands at stud in Kentucky for a fee of $100,000. New York Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John D. Sabini was quoted as saying that the administrative process aimed at barring Paragallo's return to Thoroughbred racing had begun and that civil fines would be sought in addition to the criminal penalties already imposed by the Greene County Court. The Jockey Club also can deny all privileges of The American Stud Book, including registration of Thoroughbred foals, when Paragallo's conviction becomes final.

Following the sentencing hearing, Paragallo was remanded to the Greene County Sheriff's department to begin serving his jail sentence. Paragallo's attorney, Michael Howard, criticized the sentence and said that an appeal would be filed. New York law allows 30 days for a defendant to appeal a conviction.

About the Author

Milt Toby, JD

Milt Toby is an author and attorney who has been writing about horses and legal issues affecting the equine industry for more than 40 years. Former Chair of the Kentucky Bar Association's Equine Law Section, Milt has written eight nonfiction books, including national award winners Dancer’s Image and Noor. He teaches Equine Commercial Law in the University of Louisville's Equine Industry Program.

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