State v. Hearl, AC 39463

Decision Date29 May 2018
Docket NumberAC 39463
Citation190 A.3d 42,182 Conn.App. 237
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
Parties STATE of Connecticut v. Michael A. HEARL

Jon L. Schoenhorn, Hartford, with whom, on the brief, was Ariel R. MacPherson, for the appellant (defendant).

Gregory L. Borrelli, deputy assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were David S. Shepack, state's attorney, and Devin T. Stilson, supervisory assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

Sheldon, Keller and Eveleigh, Js.


The defendant, Michael A. Hearl, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered following a jury trial, on nineteen counts of animal cruelty in violation of General Statutes § 53–247 (a).1 The defendant claims that (1) the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction, (2) the trial court did not provide the jury with a proper instruction on the required mental state to prove a violation of § 53–247 (a), (3) § 53–247 (a) is unconstitutionally vague as applied to his conduct, and (4) his conviction and sentencing on nineteen separate counts of animal cruelty violates the constitutional prohibitions against double jeopardy. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

On the basis of the evidence presented at trial, the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. In the fall of 2013, the defendant and Tara Bryson, his business partner, moved their goat cheese manufacturing business, Butterfield Farm (business), to Hautboy Hill Farm (farm) in the town of Cornwall. In May, 2014, the defendant and Bryson relocated a herd of goats to the farm from Massachusetts. The defendant and Bryson negotiated an oral lease with Allyn H. Hurlburt III, the owner of the farm, to house the goats in Hurlburt's barn. Hurlburt made it clear that the lease covered only the rental of the barn space and was not a boarding lease. In a boarding lease, the lessor agrees to provide care for the animals in addition to the space to house them. The barn the defendant moved the goats into was an open style barn, which means that it did not have fully enclosed walls. As the farm was located on an exposed hill with little topographical protection from the elements, cold winds would gust through the open walls of the barn. Previously, Hurlburt used the barn to house 100 dairy cattle. Hurlburt had remodeled the barn such that it had a ridge vent in the roof. This modification of the barn was suitable for dairy cattle, which produce a great deal of heat. This modification, however, was not suitable for goats, and it permitted rain and snow to enter the barn.

Donald Betti rented the other half of the barn in order to store his prized dairy cattle, and he had the opportunity to observe the goats frequently. During the summer of 2014, the defendant visited the farm frequently. The defendant's visits, however, became less and less frequent with time. The defendant and Bryson hired Kim Lamarre and Kyle Brimmer to care for the herd. Betti, through his observations of the herd, became increasingly concerned about the health of the goats. In July, 2014, Betti alerted Chris Stroker, a state milk inspector, to his concerns about the health of the goats. On September 17, 2014, the state Department of Agriculture (department) suspended the business' permit to produce milk in order to make cheese and instructed that produced milk be given to the kid goats. Betti's concerns were not alleviated, and in October, 2014, he e-mailed Elizabeth Hall, an agriculture and marketing inspector for the department, about the health of the goats. In particular, he was concerned about the presence of sore mouth, a type of fungal infection, in some of the baby goats. Betti observed that the condition of the goats continued to deteriorate during the fall. The goats appeared emaciated and mortality rates increased. Betti observed that the goats had a sickly appearance and that there was a high mortality rate, especially among the babies, but he observed that the goats did not appear to be under the care of a veterinarian.

On December 22, 2014, an animal control officer visited the farm and filed a complaint with the department. In response, the department began an investigation into the conditions on the farm and, on December 23, issued a quarantine order due to the morbidity and mortality rates among the herd. At the time of issuing the quarantine order, the department was unsure if the condition of the goats was attributable to disease or poor herd management.

Hall became involved with the investigation of the defendant's goats in December, 2014. On December 23, 2014, Hall made her first visit to the farm. She observed an accumulation of manure throughout the "cold, open barn," and inadequate bedding. There was a small amount of low quality2 hay available for food. Hall described one goat as "depressed. She had her head down. She wasn't acting as inquisitive as most troublemaking goats are. She was very dull and lifeless." In addition, the goats were exhibiting signs of cold stress and shivering on a relatively mild 38 degree day. The feeding rack was not filled with hay. In derogation of common herd management practices, the goats were not separated by age, breed, milking status, or pregnancy status; instead, the goats roamed the barn as one unsorted unit.

On December 26, 2014, Hall returned to the farm to assess if there were any changes with respect to feeding or the conditions generally. She observed a downed3 buck named Grover Cleveland in the center alley of the barn. In the three days since Hall's prior visit, Grover Cleveland had moved only a couple of feet by wriggling around on the ground; he was covered in his own urine and his fur had been worn away from paddling like a dog in an attempt to pull himself onto his chest. The hay in the barn remained soiled and wet. The feeding rack was not filled with hay.

On December 26, 2014, Dr. Bruce Sherman, a veterinarian with the department, joined Hall at the defendant's farm. Sherman observed multiple downed and emaciated goats. For example, Sherman saw a downed, white saanen4 doe that "had a poor body condition ...." This goat was emaciated, as indicated by its prominent vertebral processes and visible ribs. Sherman further observed that, "[t]he doe had been [downed] for quite a period of time.... [I]t had been ... paddling, [which means that it had been] laying on its side moving its legs and in doing so moved ... away what little hay and bedding that was there. There was a pile of fecal material behind it, indicating that the goat hadn't received any palliative care or nursing care to move it or try to get it up.... [T]he head of this animal had been moving back and forth and moving the hay away, and sort of digging into the soil underneath it."

Sherman further observed that conditions on the farm were inadequate. The goats were not receiving adequate nutrition and sporadically received water. Does did not have enough energy during the last trimester of pregnancy and, as a result, gave birth to underweight kids with low survival rates. Many of the goats were too weak to get up, and the barn did not provide adequate shelter from the weather. The goats were not separated into groups, a necessity for proper herd management. This allowed the remaining vigorous bucks to push out the smaller and weaker goats on the occasions when food was available. The barn also lacked a creep feeder, which is designed for adolescent goats to have a free choice of nutrients and to keep the adults out. Moreover, the herd was riddled with internal parasites and there were carcasses strewn throughout the barn.

On December 28, 2014, Hall observed that conditions in the barn had not changed. The goats were not doing well and were not receiving adequate food or water. Hall noticed that more goats were coughing and exhibiting signs of cold stress. She also discovered more mortalities and that Grover Cleveland had not changed his location since her last visit. Dead goats were piled in a manger near where the hay was stored. The young goats had access to this area and would "play ... on top of [the carcasses]," exposing them to infectious materials. The feeding rack remained empty. Hall also noticed that there was a pregnant doe that was not receiving proper care. Sound farming practices dictate that expecting does be kept in a sanitized, dry area and that there should be a heat lamp for the newborns. The defendant was not providing these conditions at the farm.

On December 29, 2014, three members of the department—Hall, Sherman, and Wayne Kasacek—had a conference call with the defendant and Bryson. The members of the department implored the defendant to take corrective actions in order to improve the conditions of the goats. Specifically, they recommended that a veterinarian assess the entire herd and provide feeding instructions. The defendant told the department that the goats had a condition known as meningeal worm.

Sherman told the defendant that meningeal worm would not account for the morbidity and the mortality rates in the herd. In response, the defendant became combative and stated that he knew that the goats had meningeal worm because he "talked to a lot of farmers and had done research himself ...."

On December 29, 2014, after speaking with representatives of the department, the defendant contacted a veterinarian, Dr. Katherine Kane. The defendant requested that Kane euthanize a goat in order to perform a necropsy. On December 30, Kane arrived to euthanize one animal.5 Kane did not intend to remain at the farm for a long period of time, but she did so because the defendant was present and asked her many questions. The defendant informed her that the goats were suffering from meningeal worm6 and that he had been treating them with fenbendazole. Kane, skeptical that the goats were suffering from meningeal worm, informed the defendant that meningeal worm could only be diagnosed with a necropsy, and that h...

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12 cases
  • State v. Ruiz-Pacheco
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 9, 2020
    ...State v. Tweedy , 219 Conn. 489, 497–99, 594 A.2d 906 (1991) (unit of prosecution for first degree robbery); State v. Hearl , 182 Conn. App. 237, 272–73, 190 A.3d 42 (unit of prosecution for animal cruelty statute), cert. denied, 330 Conn. 903, 192 A.3d 425 (2018). The unit of prosecution a......
  • State v. Grasso
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    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • April 9, 2019
    ...analysis of her claim under the state constitution. Thus, we deem that aspect of her claim to be abandoned. See State v. Hearl , 182 Conn. App. 237, 271 n.28, 190 A.3d 42, cert. denied, 330 Conn. 903, 192 A.3d 425 (2018).28 Pursuant to Golding , a defendant may prevail on a claim of constit......
  • State v. Dawson
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • March 19, 2019 not review a waived claim of instructional error that is folded into a claim of prosecutorial impropriety. See State v. Hearl , 182 Conn. App. 237, 253 n.18, 190 A.3d 42, cert. denied, 330 Conn. 903, 192 A.3d 425 (2018).The defendant also criticizes the trial court for not issuing a cura......
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    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • February 11, 2020
    ...jeopardy, the state constitution does not afford greater protection than that afforded by its federal counterpart." State v. Hearl , 182 Conn. App. 237, 271 n.28, 190 A.3d 42, cert. denied, 330 Conn. 903, 192 A.3d 425 (2018). On appeal, the defendant has not provided this court with an inde......
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