08/05/2009 11:00PM

Paragallo indicted on animal-cruelty charges

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A grand jury in Greene County, N.Y., has indicted Thoroughbred owner Ernie Paragallo on 35 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, the district attorney of Greene County said Thursday.

The 35 counts - 13 more than Paragallo had been charged with when he was arrested in April - each carry a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail, though the maximum jail sentence cannot exceed two years in total. Paragallo is scheduled to appear for his arraignment on Aug. 18 in Greene County Court.

Paragallo, 51, was arrested on his Center Brook Farm in Climax, N.Y., on April 10 after investigators alleged that all 177 horses on the farm were in various states of malnourishment. Paragallo later turned over custody of 67 of the horses to the Columbia-Greene Humane Society, whose officers executed the search warrant on Aug. 8 and provided evidence to support the charges.

Terry Wilhelm, the district attorney, said Thursday that the additional 13 counts were related to two horses that were euthanized in February at the farm; seven horses owned by Paragallo that were found in a pen in upstate New York in late March; two horses that were being boarded at Center Brook but removed by the owner on April 4; and two horses still at the farm that the indictment alleges "did not receive proper veterinary care."

It is not typical for charges involving misdemeanors to be presented to a grand jury for an indictment. However, prosecutors decided to seek an indictment so that the case would be moved to superior court rather than justice court, where misdemeanors such as traffic infractions are adjudicated.

"It was our opinion that the proper venue was county court because of the seriousness of the charges and the likelihood that this will lead to litigation," Wilhelm said.

Michael Howard, Paragallo's attorney, did not return phone calls on Thursday. He has previously said that Paragallo would contest the charges.

Paragallo raced horses under the name of Paraneck Stable and was once one of the most prominent owners on the New York circuit. The owner's licenses for Paraneck were held by his daughters, but those licenses were revoked after Paragallo was arrested.

When the allegations of malnutrition surfaced in April, Paragallo said that he had not been to the Center Brook property for nine months and that he was attempting to address feed-management problems at the farm.

If Paragallo is convicted of an animal-cruelty charge, it is unlikely that any U.S. racing jurisdiction would issue him a license. In addition, the Jockey Club, which maintains the U.S. Thoroughbred registry, could deny Paragallo the privilege of registering his horses.