03/10/2010 12:00AM

Paragallo found guilty on 33 counts


Ernie Paragallo, a onetime leading owner in New York whose racing privileges were revoked last year, was found guilty on 33 counts of animal cruelty by a Greene County district judge on Wednesday, according to racing officials who attended the announcement of the verdict.

Judge George Pulver delivered the verdict on Wednesday morning and scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 18, according to the officials. Paragallo is facing a maximum fine of $33,000 and up to two years in jail on the charges. He remains free on $5,000 bail.

Michael Howard, Paragallo's attorney, did not immediately return a phone call on Wednesday after the verdict was delivered.

Paragallo was indicted last year on 35 animal-cruelty charges following an April raid on his Center Brook Farm in Coxsackie, N.Y. As a result of the raid, all 177 horses on the farm were taken into custody by the Columbia-Greene Humane Society after officials for the society testified that the horses were malnourished and infested with lice. In addition, Paragallo's racing license was revoked in New York.

During the trial, one of the animal-cruelty charges was dropped. Paragallo was found not guilty on another one of the charges, according to officials.

Paragallo has said that he did not intend to mistreat any of the horses. During the trial, he testified that he had not visited his farm for more than eight months prior to the raid. Paragallo also testified that his feeding methods were based on a technique from a book called "Joe Taylor's Complete Guide to Breeding and Raising Racehorses" that would result in slim horses, according to reports.

Prosecutors called several veterinarians to the stand to testify that the horses were malnourished and underweight. The prosecution also introduced as evidence receipts for hay and grain purchases at Center Brook over the past two years that appeared to demonstrate that Paragallo had cut his feed purchases significantly in the winter of 2008 and 2009, according to reports.