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Old 02-03-2007
micwolf485 micwolf485 is offline
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Default Jury finds 2 PETA workers not guilty of animal cruelty

06:31 PM EST on Friday, February 2, 2007

Associated Press

WINTON, N.C. (AP) -- After deliberating most of Friday, the jury found two animal rights workers not guilty of animal cruelty but convicted them of littering.

Adria Hinkle and Andrew Cook, two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, testified they euthanized the animals in the back of their van to relieve suffering. They say they disposed of the bodies in Hertford County because the smell of the bodies on hot summer day was overwhelming.

Mark Edwards, a Durham attorney representing Cook, said shelter workers and veterinarians all knew that at least some of the animals they turned over to PETA would be euthanized because of the animals' poor health.

"These kids are pawns between law enforcement and PETA," Edwards said. "What was going to be done anyway, they did it in the most humane way possible."

Prosecutors disputed that.

"We're here because the defendant, Miss Hinkle, went to the Ahoskie Animal Hospital and lied to get an animal and then kill it," Assistant District Attorney Valerie Asbell said.

After Asbell's argument, the defense asked for a mistrial, arguing that she improperly quoted from an unrelated PETA document found in Hinkle's van. Judge Cy Grant denied the request and jury deliberations began about 2:45 p.m.

Hinkle, 28, and Cook, 26, had each faced 21 felony counts of animal cruelty until Grant reduced those charges Thursday to eight misdemeanor counts. The judge said prosecutors failed to prove malice, a necessary element of the felony charge.

Each also faces a misdemeanor littering charge, and Hinkle faces three felony charges for obtaining property by false pretenses.

"We're obviously relieved that most of the felonies have been reduced," said Kathy Guillermo, a PETA spokeswoman from Modesto, Calif. "These are two people who have dedicated their lives to helping animals."

Hinkle, of Norfolk, Va., and Cook, of Virginia Beach, were arrested in June 2005 after police said they saw the PETA volunteers dump several bags of dead animals in a bin behind a grocery store. Police said they found more dead animals in the pair's van.

They were supposed to take the dead animals back to PETA's offices in Norfolk.

Local shelter officials said they were unaware that PETA planned to euthanize most of the animals it picked up, but a PETA official testified that she told county officials of the policy.

Blair Brown, Hinkle's lawyer, said PETA's euthanasia program was no secret.

"Everybody knew PETA killed animals and it's not right for them to come into court and say otherwise," Brown said.

Hinkle was on administrative leave from PETA. Cook still works for the organization in another capacity.
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