State Won't Call Key Witness in Animal Abuse Trial

Prosecutors said Tuesday, Aug. 14 that they won't be calling former Cook County Sheriff's Officer Larry Draus to testify in the animal cruelty and neglect trial of Dawn Hamill.

During a pretrial hearing Tuesday in the animal cruelty and neglect case against Dawn Hamill, prosecutors said that they will not be calling former Cook County Sheriff's Office employee Larry Draus, who had been plagued with credibility concerns.

However, Hamill's defense attorney Purav Bhatt may subpoena Draus, Bhatt said during a hearing where Judge Anna Helen Demacopoulos ruled on a in her Markham courtroom.

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Hamill, 43, is charged with  in connection with conditions discovered in a  of 's . About 100 animals were removed from the shelter. Some of them, including a miniature horse, were found dead.

In one of his motions, Bhatt asked that he be allowed to mention  during questioning if the state calls him as a witness. When prosecutors responded that they will not be calling Draus, Demacopoulos ruled against that motion but said if the defense calls Draus, they can ask him if he's currently charged with a crime, what the crime is and where the case is being prosecuted.

"It will be interesting to see how the state intends to prove their case without Draus," Bhatt told Patch in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Draus was the lead investigator and chief evidence gatherer in the 2011 raid, Bhatt explained, taking photos and securing evidence at the scene. The state's decision to not call him could be based on Draus' potentially damaging federal charges, Bhatt said.

He added that the next logical witness to testify regarding the scene would be Linda Estrada, executive director of the Animal Welfare League. And because Estrada ultimately either hired Draus as an employee or appointed him as a volunteer at the league after he was dismissed from the sheriff's office, Bhatt said during the trial as well.

"If [prosecutors] are trying to hide [Draus], we're going to expose him," Bhatt said.

Evidence of Other Crimes Will be Allowed

In one of the state's motions, prosecutor Sarah Naughton asked that evidence the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Animal Health and Welfare Bureau found be admissible. It included support for unsanitary conditions, poor record-keeping, improper buildings and walls, as well as other violations during three inspection dates in June, August and November of 2010.

"The Nov. 4, 2010 date was just a few months before the raid," at the sanctuary, Naughton said, arguing that the evidence of the bureau's administrative hearings regarding Hamill goes to show the owner was aware of conditions at the shelter and took no steps to correct them.

Bhatt argued that the criminal charges facing Hamill involve 10 animals and none of those were specifically mentioned in the Bureau's complaints. He also said none of those hearings resulted in criminal charges against Hamill.

Allowing the evidence would "confuse the issue to what exactly my client is on trial for," Bhatt said, and will offer more prejudicial value than probative value.

But Demacopoulous granted the state's motion.

"I believe these findings can be admissible to show Miss Hamill had the opportunity in the past to understand what needed to be done," the judge said.

Illinois law allows for evidence of other crimes if it will show knowledge, absence of a mistake or accident, she explained.

In other motions, the judge's rulings included:

  • When objections are given during the trial, no legal conversation will be held in front of the jury; attorneys will have a sidebar.
  • Hamill's background, lack of arrest or otherwise, will not be introduced to bolster or hamper credibility.
  • Punishment is not going to be an issue for the jury so it is inappropriate to argue anything regarding punishment in front of the jury.
  • Arguments must be confined to the facts of the case.

Hamill's trial is scheduled to begin 9 a.m. Sept. 11 in Room 203 of the Markham courthouse.

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JenniferT August 15, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Even well-tended animals die occasionally. I know for a fact photos can be doctored to look like they prove something that isn't. Unless I've heard ALL the testimony and seen ALL the evidence, preferably in person, I wouldn't judge the sanctuary owners. There have been WAY too many cases nationwide lately where over-ambitious animal rights extremists are stealing the animals of citizens just so they have product to sell and a sob story to make money off of. These 'poor, starved, sick, neglected' animals are taken from the owners because they're in 'such horrendous condition', then sold off within a few days. Anyone who has done REAL rescue and shelter work knows that animals in need of seizure aren't ready to be placed in new homes in just a few days. And it especially burns me when the veterinarian examining the animals says they are healthy and the volunteers tending them say they're friendly and social. Neglected, abused animals who are in such danger that they need to be taken from their legal owner are NOT 'healthy, friendly, and social'. I await the REAL facts in this case.
Kimberly August 16, 2012 at 01:57 AM
@Jennifer...even some sanctuary owners take perfectly healthy animals, keep them in horrible conditions, then peddle sad pictures of 'poor, starved, sick, neglected animals' so they have a sob story to make money off of.
Dina August 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I hope Hamill burns in HELL !!!!!!!!!
MaryAnn August 18, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Emma September 08, 2012 at 08:27 PM
PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO SHUT HER DOWN FOREVER!! It is so sad that it took this long. This woman deserves to die slowly, just like all these poor equines had to.


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