Animal Cruelty Case Gets New Presiding Judge

Judge Christopher Donnelly bowed out in light of an anonymous letter he received that tried to persuade his judgment. Dawn Hamill was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty and owner's neglect following a police raid on her property last year.

Evidence against a animal rescue owner that must be presented again because of a mistrial could fall on as many as 13 new sets of ears.

That number depends on whether Judge Anna Demacopoulos grants Dawn Hamill, the owner of Dazzle’s Painted Pastures Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, a jury trial.

Judge Christopher Donnelly, who has presided over the case since , recused himself from the case on Wednesday, moving the matter and its complexities to Demacopoulos’ courtroom.

Citing an anonymous letter he recently received , Donnelly said he did not want to give the impression that his judgment had been influenced by an outside source.

At a hearing last month, Donnelly’s demeanor and voice suggested a worn patience for this enduring battle.

Hamill signed a jury waiver earlier this year and a bench trial commenced. Days after its key witness was . A federal indictment alleged that Cook County investigator at the time he was testifying against Hamill.

Donnelly declared a mistrial on grounds that Hamill was not able to properly cross-exam Draus and therefore unable to get a fair trial.

Although the case has started over again, Demacopoulos gave the courtroom the impression that a jury, rather than a bench, trial would have to be motioned and then argued for.

Hamill’s attorney, Purav Bhatt, plans to do as much on May 29.

There has been no word from prosecutors on whether Draus will be recalled to tesify. The state’s evidence against Hamill is not limited to eye witness testimony but relies heavily on photographs and video Draus took at Painted Pastures.

Bhatt could make light of this fact in front of a jury and attack the officer's credibility, even though other witnesses—volunteers from the Animal Welfare League—testified the first time around that they were by the officer’s side, and in some cases in front of the camera, when he took them.

“It’s a circus … It was messy from the moment (Draus) got involved,” Bhatt said of the officer’s handling of the search warrant and raid that led to .

A jury should be aware of the federal charges facing Draus, Bhatt said, but it’s one more issue that now falls on Demacopoulos' head.

“I’d like to move this along as quickly as possible,” she told the court.


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Dennis Banahan May 07, 2012 at 11:55 AM
I was greatly disappointed in Judge Donnelly's decision to recuse himself from the Painted Pastures trial. It calls to mind one of the great movie classics, "Miracle on 34th Street", where William Frawley advises the judge presiding ove the sanity hearing of Santa Claus to recuse himself from the trial because it was politically expedient to do so. It would have been a short, and rather boring, movie if all the judge had to do was receive an anonymous letter to extricate himself from the quagmire, don't you think? I'm going to have to follow this case more closely now to see if Judge Demacopoulos gets an anonymous letter and then has to recuse herself. In fact, I might just send her an anonymous letter myself just to keep the joke going. It would make a great comedy, if it weren't for all the suffering and cruelty inflicted on the animals at Painted Pastures.


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