A bench trial involving the owner of a animal sanctuary was again postponed on Monday—this time in the absence of presiding Judge Christopher Donnelly.
Donnelly heard testimony last month from all six of the state’s witnesses on the alleged poor conditions that certain animals were subjected to at . For hours the courtroom was redolent with words like “horribly” and “atrocious.”
On Feb. 11, 2011, Cook County sheriff’s police from Painted Pastures after a former employee complained. The raid netted its owner, Dawn Hamill, more than 30 charges related to animal cruelty and neglect.
Hamill's defense attorney, Purav Bhatt, was expected to call his own witnesses on March 19 when the court learned that the state’s key witness, Larry Draus, was indicted on federal extortion charges unrelated to Hamill’s case.
Draus, an officer with the Cook County animal crimes unit, was accused of accepting cash payoffs from a federal informant posing as a trafficker for contraband cigarettes. The Cook County Sheriff's Office had been cooperating with federal authorities in an undercover probe of Draus and his son, also indicted, since summer 2011, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Trial is now scheduled to resume on April 9, though the defense is not expecting to call any witnesses on that date either.
After learning of Draus' indictment, Bhatt filed motions to dismiss the charges and throw out the search warrant and certain evidence "based on the fact Draus was being investigated during the time all (Hamill's) charges were being investigated," he said.
Throughout the first day of trial Bhatt challenged Draus' credibility as a witness, showing, in one instance, how a food bowl which Draus' report said didn’t exist in a dead cat’s cage could be seen in the officer’s own video.
Donnelly has twice reviewed Hamill’s claim that the search warrant was executed improperly and ruled against her.