BUFFALO, NY -- Minutes after a judge found Beth Hoskins guilty on 52 of 74 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges on Monday afternoon, her first words to reporters had a hint of sarcasm.
"So," Hoskins said, "what are we all doing here?"
She's been asking the same question since March of 2010, when investigators from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized dozens of horses and other animals from her farm, claiming they'd been mistreated, dehydrated, neglected and left to live in the remnants of their own waste. Hoskins maintained her innocence Monday after Town of Aurora Justice Douglas Marky read her verdicts on a dramatic horse-by-horse basis.
Mark: guilty. Missy: guilty. Misty: guilty. The list went on.
Hoskins heard all of the verdicts. And she's still not wavering.
"We're not done yet," Hoskins said. "This was one person, and one person's opinion."
Hoskins said she plans to appeal the verdicts and will "continue to see what avenues are available to us." Her case has dragged through the news media and the courts for more than three years now, creating a frenzied and emotionally-charged atmosphere inside the court room. Spectators filled the room to capacity, so much that when Marky first walked in from his adjacent office door, he uttered the words "holy smokes."
Barbara Carr, the executive director of the SPCA in Erie County, said she was "not at all surprised" by Marky's decision. Sentencing is set for September 26, and prison is a possibility.
"We don't go into a case without doing our homework and knowing what we're doing," Carr said.
Hoskins has long argued that the SPCA overreacted to the conditions on her farm. On Monday, she claimed photographs of the animals released by the SPCA were not taken at her property, but instead "four to six weeks after the seizure, where they had become thin in [the SPCA's] care."
Earlier this summer, Hoskins' case garnered more attention when her attorneys made a motion to dismiss based on an alleged relationship between a prosecutor named Matthew Albert and Alex Cooke, an employee of the SPCA. The controversy led to Albert's firing, but a judge denied the motion.
Cooke was not called as a witness in this particular case, which is why Albert said his relationship was not a conflict of interest. Despite his firing, he attended the reading of the verdicts on Monday, and a sizable team of supporters carried bright-colored signs on the streets outside of the courtroom in defense of the animals.
"There's nothing ethically wrong with me taking on a relationship with an employee of the SPCA who, again, was not a witness in the case," Albert said.
At one point during the post-verdict interview, Hoskins heard laughing from behind the cameras and pointed out Cooke's mother as the culprit, forcing her to stop mid-sentence because "her family's standing there staring at me right now."
It was another odd moment in this case, in which Hoskins said she has spent close to a million dollars in legal fees to defend herself.
Carr said the SPCA has spent about a million dollars to care for the horses.
"We are very appreciative to the district attorney's office for all the work that went into the case. It was huge," Carr said. "We're very glad now that it's completed."
Except Hoskins begs to differ.
"We will continue," Hoskins said. "This was just the first step in a long process.