05/17/2010 11:00PM

Paragallo draws fine, two-year sentence


Ernie Paragallo, once one of the leading owners of Thoroughbred racehorses in New York, was sentenced to up to two years in a New York county jail and assessed a $33,000 fine on Tuesday in connection with his conviction earlier this year on 33 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, according to a witness at the sentencing hearing in Greene County.

It was unclear on Tuesday if Paragallo intends to appeal the sentence, which was the maximum allowed under New York law. Paragallo's attorney, Michael Howard, did not return a phone call.

Paragallo was convicted of the 33 counts earlier this year after being indicted by the Greene County district attorney on 35 animal-cruelty charges. The charges were brought after an April 2009 raid of Paragallo's Center Brook Farm in Climax, N.Y., a rural community in the northern Catskills in which animal-control officials alleged that dozens of horses on the farm were malnourished and infested with skin parasites.

According to Joe Mahoney, a spokesperson for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, the judge rejected a plea by Howard to limit the sentence to a fine. Mahoney attended the hearing as a representative of the board, which revoked Paragallo's racing license following the April raid. Paragallo has been barred from New York tracks since the revocation, and has dispersed his racing stock, which raced under the name Paraneck Stable.

Paragallo had maintained that he had not been involved in the day-to-day operations of the farm for more than six months at the time that allegations surfaced that horses were being mistreated at the farm. The prosecution presented evidence during the trial that indicated Paragallo had cut back on feed expenses prior to the raid.

Judge George Pulver said he intended to force Paragallo to pay restitution for the efforts by animal-control officials to rehabilitate 177 horses on the farm and find homes for the animals, according to Mahoney.

Paragallo was sentenced on the same day the racing and wagering board announced that it has summoned Paragallo to appear at a June 24 hearing to answer charges that he hid the ownership of the Paraneck horses for several years prior to the raid. Under the license that Paragallo was issued by the board, he was the authorized agent for his daughters, who nominally owned Paraneck Stable.

The board said it had collected evidence on 1,584 starts by Paraneck Stables in which they believed Paragallo hid his ownership.

The board is also seeking an order to bar Paragallo from all New York racetracks. In addition, the board will seek to levy a $5,000 fine for each of the animal-cruelty charges in the conviction, the board said, an amount that could total $165,000.