09/29/2016 12:16PM

No jail for Charles Borell in plea deal

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HARRODSBURG, Ky. – Charles Borell, a Syracuse, N.Y., resident charged in Mercer County, Ky., with 43 counts of animal cruelty earlier this year, pled guilty to nine of the charges on Thursday as part of a plea deal with county prosecutors in a case that has drawn widespread attention because of Borell’s connection to the former trainer of 2015 sprint champion Runhappy.

Under the terms of the plea deal, Borell, the father of Runhappy’s former trainer, Maria Borell, was sentenced to two years’ probation and will be required to forfeit any claim of ownership to 43 horses who were seized by state agricultural officials in June from a farm in Mercer County that Charles Borell had formerly leased. If he violates the terms of his probation, which includes being charged with any “arrestable offense,” Borell will be required to serve a 179-day jail term.

Borell was also required to forfeit a $4,300 bond that will be used to provide partial restitution to local agencies that have provided care for the horses since they were seized, and he will be prohibited from owning or caring for “any animal” in Kentucky during the term of his probation.

Borell’s appearance in Mercer County Circuit Court was his first in the state since he was arrested and released in late June. He spoke one word during the court hearing on Thursday – “guilty,” in answering Judge Jeff L. Dotson’s query as to how he would plead to the nine charges in the agreement – and left the courtroom unaccompanied by his lawyer, Larry Catlett, who answered questions on behalf of his client following the court appearance.

Catlett confirmed that Borell had entered a so-called “Alford plea” as part of the deal, meaning that Borell did not admit to any wrongdoing but acknowledged that prosecutors would be able to provide enough evidence to convict him.

Catlett said that Borell had relied on people he hired to care for the horses while he was in New York, but those people did not provide food for the horses. He said that Borell decided to accept the plea deal despite wanting to fight the charges because of the expense of continuing to defend himself against the charges.

“He wanted his day in court, but the risks were too great,” Catlett said.

Catlett said he visited the farm after Borell hired him and that the conditions of some of the horses “broke my heart.” Nevertheless, he said his client was not to blame.

“He feels he is being railroaded,” Catlett said. “He feels the charges are unjust.”

The plea agreement will result in the dismissal of 34 of the animal-cruelty charges and the discharge of a civil suit seeking restitution for the care of the horses since they were seized. Agriculture officials said that when they arrived at the farm in late June, the horses were not being provided with care, and that several of the horses displayed signs of severe malnutrition.

County prosecutors have also charged Maria Borell with 43 counts of animal cruelty, but because the charges are misdemeanors, they have said they will not seek to extradite her. Maria Borell’s whereabouts are currently unknown, according to prosecutors.