Court denies Bennett’s suppression motion
Oct. 16, 2012 — A motion to suppress evidence was denied in a case where a man faces 65 counts of alleged animal cruelty.
Lassen Superior Court Presiding Judge F. Donald Sokol denied the request made by Dwight Bennett’s defense attorney Stephen King Wednesday, Oct. 3.
In a motion filed by King, he requested all evidence regarding the seizure of 36 horses seized from Whispering Pines Property off Highway 36, on Aug. 26, 2011, all statements of the defendant and all observations of officers or other witnesses be “suppressed and inadmissible in any proceeding on the ground it was obtained as a result of an unreasonable and illegal warrantless search and/or seizure in violation of the defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment and right to Due Process under the United States Constitution.”
In points and authorities in support of his motion to suppress evidence, King said law enforcement, assisted by Lassen County Animal Control and other private parties, entered Whispering Pines Ranch under a search warrant with the intent of seizing all horses in the possession of the defendant. Those animals were seized and placed in the custody of the Grace Foundation.
The district attorney filed 70 felony counts of animal cruelty, but it is alleged the defendant was not provided a post-seizure hearing prior to the arrest and filing of a criminal complaint.
After a preliminary hearing, superior court judge Michelle Verderosa determined Bennett would be held to answer to 65 counts of animal cruelty.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Sandra Mock responded with an opposition to the defense’s request.
She said, Bennett voluntarily surrendered 20 horses in April 2011. The remaining live horses were surrendered pursuant to an order of the court issued July 29, 2011.
She said the post-seizure hearing process outlined in Penal Code section 597.1(f)(g) “cited as authority by defendant, refers specifically to seizures conducted to a probable cause search warrant or solely upon the reasonable belief that the animal’s health or safety needs to be protected immediately, not to a court order in which a receiver has been appointed and the seizure is in conformity with a valid order of the court. Had defendant wished to contest the August seizure, his opportunity was in the civil court where the appropriate hearings were conducted.”
A trial has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 4 and is estimated to last four days. A trial readiness conference has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 13. Bennett is also being held to answer on a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance.
Between now and Nov. 13, King said he would be talking with the prosecution to come up with an offer and resolution in the matter.
Sokol advised him there would be no further discussion after the trial readiness conference except a dismissal by the district attorney.
Bennett was arrested in October 2011. Verderosa agreed to release him on his own recognizance.
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