02/23/2010 12:00AM

Case against Paragallo begins

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Ernie Paragallo, the once leading New York owner who was stripped of his racing privileges last year, appeared on Tuesday in a Greene County Court in upstate New York to defend himself against 35 counts of animal cruelty.

Paragallo, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has indicated in recent weeks that he intended to vigorously contest the charges. Paragallo was indicted on the animal-cruelty charges last year by the Greene County district attorney after authorities seized 177 horses at Paragallo's Center Brook Farm in Climax, N.Y. Paragallo is facing up to two years in jail and $35,000 in fines.

Prior to the seizure, Paragallo had acknowledged that several mares on the farm were underweight. In recent months, Paragallo has said that investigators from the humane society exaggerated when describing the horses' condition at the farm.

Officials involved in the case did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon.

Paragallo was barred from racing in New York shortly after the allegations of mistreatment surfaced.