Mistrial for sanctuary owner accused of animal cruelty; new trial set
By STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org April 9, 2012 3:52PM
Dawn Hamill. | File photo
Updated: May 11, 2012 8:09AM
A south suburban woman charged with numerous misdemeanors for allegedly mistreating animals at her shelter near Tinley Park is going to get a new trial.
Cook County Circuit Judge Christopher Donnelly on Monday granted a motion for a mistrial for Dawn Hamill, a spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney office said.
Hamill’s attorney, Purav Bhatt, said there were questions regarding the credibility of the state’s key witness, Larry Draus, a Cook County Sheriff’s investigator who has been indicted on federal extortion charges of trafficking cigarettes in an unrelated case.
“Because of information about the officer, his credibility comes into question,” Bhatt said. “If the state put him on the stand, he’d open himself to questions about his own federal case. And that would open himself to incriminating himself.”
Draus testified during the trial on March 7 that when he entered Hamill’s animal sanctuary, Dazzle’s Painted Pastures Rescue and Sanctuary, he found a miniature horse dead in its barn stall and a dead Himalayan cat in an adjacent tack room.
The judge scheduled Hamill’s new trial to begin on May 2 in the Markham courthouse, state’s attorney spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.
The sanctuary, at 5555 W. 175th St. in Bremen Township, was raided Feb. 11, 2011, by the Cook County Sheriff’s police animal crimes unit, which removed more than 100 animals, mostly dogs and cats.
Bhatt asked the judge to throw out the entire case, but Donnelly on Monday denied that motion and also refused to reconsider a defense request to disallow evidence obtained during the raid, Simonton said. Bhatt had argued police had no probable cause to search and raid the property.
Hamill is still running the animal rescue and sanctuary, “and the community has been there for her,” Bhatt said. “She still has her license with the Department of Agriculture and it’s still good. She can operate as she did before. These are pending charges.
“She’s feeling good about the whole thing. She gets another bite at the apple. The first trial was going fine, in my opinion, and we anticipated a finding of not guilty.”
That’s in contrast to what some may think, he noted.
“The judge told both parties that an individual, someone who didn’t sign their name, wrote to the judge urging him to not dismiss the case. The judge found that to be highly inappropriate and told the court,” Bhatt said. “Emotions tend to run high on cases like this. This has been going on for more than a year. In the court of public opinion, she’s already been tried and convicted.”