Ohio Court Denies Appeal in Vess Neglect Case

Robin Vess, the Ohio woman convicted on more than 40 counts of second degree misdemeanor animal cruelty for maltreating numerous Arabian horses, has lost her bid for a new trial in the case.

In February 2010 Humane Society of Ottawa County animal welfare authorities discovered 37 animals living in filth without food or water on Vess' Oak Harbor farm. One horse was found dead and another five were euthanized at the scene. The remaining 31 horses were removed from the farm and placed under rehabilitative care. Vess later surrendered the surviving animals to the Arabian Rescue Mission/Arabian Rescue Midwest. The horses were subsequently placed in new homes or with former owners or breeders.

Ottawa County prosecutors later charged Vess with 42 counts of counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. She declined to accept a plea deal that would have dismissed the majority of the charges in exchange for pleading guilty to three of those counts. In April 2010 Vess was convicted on all charges and sentenced to the maximum penalty of 90 days in jail with the majority of the jail time suspended. As a result, Vess was ordered to serve 42 days in jail. She was also ordered to serve five years probation, was forbidden to own any horses until the court orders otherwise, and required to participate in the court's mental health program. Vess was also ordered to pay $8,711.87 in fines and court costs.

In September 2010 Vess' attorney sought a new trial in the case claiming that post-trial information indicated that one witness in the case was biased against Vess. That motion was denied.

Vess subsequently appealed to the Sixth Appellate Court in Lukas County for a new trial on the grounds that her former attorney failed to property counsel her regarding the plea deal, and failed to rebut expert testimony during the trial. Vess also claimed that the trial was flawed because a prosecution witness was biased against her. A municipal court order suspended Vess sentence pending the outcome of the appeal.

On June 24 a three-judge Appellate Court panel denied Vess' appeal for a new trial. According to the court's decision, Vess failed to prove that her attorney's representation during the trial was ineffective. The court also ruled that there was insufficient evidence to show that the testimony of the so-called biased witness undermined the trial's outcome.

Attorney Leonard W. Yelsky, who represented Vess during the appeal, was unavailable for comment.

Ottawa County Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Bigler said, "We thought the trial was fair and proper and that she was granted all her rights and constitutional privileges, and the Appellate Court agreed with us."

Vess could petition the Ohio Supreme Court to review the case, Bigler said.

When Vess will begin serving her sentence is subject to a municipal court order, Bigler said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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