"All Charges Dismissed!"
Becky Burns (KS/MO Chapter Coordinator) and Angela Williams (MO HorseAid Field Rep), were acquitted of all charges on September 8, 1999 (for the full story, as it unfolded, read the following story)
(from our August 1999 report)
Ray County, Missouri Prosecuting Attorney Stanley Thompson declares:
DON'T DO DOGS!"
(And apparently, he doesn't do ponies, either)
Quoted from the "Opinion" section of a local Ray County, MO newspaper. When asked why the Ray County Prosecuting Attorney did not act on a case of dog abuse, he replied "I don't do dogs." Nor does he seem to care about mistreated ponies either. Read on...
Kansas City Star News Article (copyright KC Star 1999, all rights reserved)
Two horse activists charged with stealing ponies
By RICHARD ESPINOZA, The Kansas City Star, Date: 07/15/99, 22:15
Two women who helped save a herd of starving ponies from a Miami County ranch were charged this week with attempting to steal four of the animals in Ray County, Mo.
Becky Burns and Angela Williams, who authorities said were working for HorseAid, were each charged Wednesday in Ray County Circuit Court with second-degree burglary and four counts of stealing, all felonies.
HorseAid placed more than 200 sick, starving hackney ponies that a court ordered removed from a Miami County ranch last year. The group pledged on its Internet site to monitor the ponies' conditions in their new homes for the rest of their lives.
Don Stokes adopted three of the ponies at his Ray County land near Lawson, Mo., and one of the animals later gave birth. Since then, Stokes had a dispute with Horse Aid representatives about whether the ponies were getting proper care, according to Ray County Sheriff's Deputy Larry Johnson.
About 3 p.m. Tuesday, deputies and Lawson police officers learned that two persons were hauling away the four ponies. Police later arrested Burns and Williams. The ponies were returned to Stokes.
November 1998 - Floyd Stokes adopted three of the HorseAid "Miami County Ponies sm"; one stallion (Romeo), a pregnant mare (Juliet), and an open mare (Lady). Stokes was told both orally and in writing that he must geld the stallion within 30 days, that neither of the mares could be bred, and that the coming foal would be the property of HorseAid (all stated in the contract he signed).
was given the same cover letter all applicants received during the Miami County
pony rescue adoption process, which specifically also states no
breeding is allowed, and that the animal cannot be sold or given away.
to all applications
and adoption contracts (click to enlarge)
wrote in his application
that he only wanted the ponies
as "pets" - but in actuality, he wanted to breed and sell them.
February 1999 - HorseAid Kansas/Missouri Chapter head, Becky Burns, attempted to call Stokes to get directions to the ponies for a spot check and found the number to be disconnected, with no forwarding number. A clear violation of the contract he signed on 11-08-98 on the Sterns property in Miami County, Kansas (section 9., "DISCLOSURE and RIGHT to INSPECT" section 9.1 specifically, reproduced farther down on the page).
March 1999 - Becky drove to the location where Stokes said he kept the ponies. They were not there - the neighbor told Becky where the ponies had been moved to. It was to his son Don Stokes and his daughter-in-law Sally Stokes' house. Becky informed them that by moving the ponies without notification that Floyd Stokes was in violation of his contract.
March 1999 - Becky gave Floyd Stokes
another copy of his contract; this time sent certified (acceptance receipt
directly below). After reading it, Don and Sally Stokes called Becky to
complain that they would not be able to sell the foal that had been born
to Juliet. Becky again requested that they have Floyd Stokes (who was the
actual adopter) call her. Floyd Stokes finally called, claiming that he
was never informed that he would not be able to sell the foals (a fact
clearly stated in the contract he signed). Becky offered to take the ponies
back if he did not agree with the contract, but Stokes refused, saying
he would comply.
April 1999 - Don and Sally Stokes called to say that Floyd Stokes didn't want the ponies after all, because he couldn't breed them, and that they would agree to take over his contract. Becky had them sign new contracts and sent them to California for approval.
At this time the stallion was still not gelded and the Stokes were informed that it was their responsibility to do so ASAP. All four animals appeared to be in good health, but Becky did warn the Stokes that Lady's halter was beginning to fit too snugly and that they would have to get her a larger halter. Becky also expressed her concerns about a swelling in the stallion's jaw, but she was told by the Stokes that he was too wild to have someone handle him to look at the jaw.
May 1999 - Because Becky Burns had reservations about the intentions of Floyd Stokes son and daughter-in-law as concerns breeding, concerns which she expressed to the HorseAid main office -- she was informed by the main office to insist they have the colt gelded immediately. If they could not afford to do so, Enzo Giobbé, of HorseAid, would personally pay for the procedure.
June 1999 - Someone called Becky to say that they were concerned about the ponies being kept by the Stokes. They claimed that they were not being fed every day and they were not getting the medical and farrier attention they needed. Becky sent the Stokes copies of their contracts and a letter telling them that she had received a complaint about their care of the ponies, and that they had 30 days to have the stallion gelded, or forfeit.
July 5, 1999 - Having gotten no response from the Stokes, Becky called Sally Stokes and left a message for her to return her call. Mrs. Stokes then returned her call about the letter Becky had sent. Mrs. Stokes told her that the vet had come out to geld the pony and was unable to do so because he was still wild. Mrs. Stokes wanted to know who had called complaining about the ponies. Becky informed Mrs. Stokes that was confidential information and that no decisions would be made about taking the ponies until a field representative for HorseAid could come out and do a spot check (as per the contracts the Stokes signed, the HorseAid representative is the sole determining authority on the care and condition of HorseAid adopted equines). Mrs. Stokes said she would call the closest field HorseAid representative (Judy Ralston) herself and have her come out "any time she wanted".
July 10, 1999 - Becky received a letter from the Stokes' attorney saying not to contact his clients or go near the ponies. She was told that any contact needs to go through him. At this time Becky called the main HorseAid office to ask what she should do. She was told that if in her opinion (as stated in the contract), the ponies appeared to be in "harms way", and because the Stokes had violated their contract multiple times, she should go pick up the ponies ASAP before any more harm came to them.
When asked where the horse were, Becky replied "just a little ways down the road from me." She failed to mention they were also in another state (MO). An easy oversight if you live close to a state border and traverse that state's border all the time. Had the main office known that the horses were not in KS, HorseAid would have retained a MO attorney to resolve the matter.
Lady inside the closed barn when the outside temp was in the 90's
July 13, 1999 - Becky and field representative Angela Williams (and her two sons, ages 6 and 12) met in Platte City to go pick up the ponies, which were approximately one hour away. When they arrived in the early afternoon they noted that the ponies had access to a stagnant pond, but there was no source of fresh water for them. There was no one home at the time of arrival.
Angela backed the trailer up and started looking for the ponies. When Becky and Angela went looking into the barn they saw that the stallion was in the barn with Juliet and the three month old filly. At that time they noted the stallion (still not gelded) had lost a lot of weight. After searching the barn for Lady they found her in a manure and urine filled stall. All air flow passageways were blocked by sheets, feedsacks and cardboard. The mare appeared very frightened. She still had the too-small halter on that the Stokes were warned about months earlier. Becky removed the halter to find impressions of the halter on the nose of the mare where the skin had grown around the halter. Becky put a larger halter on the mare and noticed her right eye oozing. Becky tied Lady to a post and took pictures of her and the stall she was kept in.
They then took her outside and tied her to a post in order to load the stallion first (who had the farthest to travel). The outside temperature that day was in the low to mid 90's.
ventilation, no clean water, and no clean stall or compassion for poor
Would you ever keep any animal in the same circumstances or environment?
Once back inside, Becky and Angela had a difficult time getting the stallion away from Juliet. After finally loading him in the trailer they noticed whip marks on his back, a one inch high swelling about the diameter of an spread hand on the left side of his neck and that the swelling in his jaw had gotten larger.
At this time a teenager in a Chevrolet Cavalier pulled up in the driveway. When Angela went to talk to him, he went into the house and shut the door. Angela went back to finish loading the ponies.
While driving through Lawson, Angela noticed police lights in her rear view mirror. An officer stopped them and informed them that there were four ponies reported stolen. The young man was there also, in the Cavalier. Becky at that time tried to show the officer the contracts and explain what they were doing, but he refused to look at them or listen to her explanation.
They were ordered to follow him to the police station. Becky asked if they were under arrest, and was informed they were not. She then asked why she was being detained, and why she was being ordered to go to the police station against her will. She was informed that she had better follow the patrol car to the police station. She and Angela were not placed under arrest or read their Miranda rights.
After arriving at the police station, they were informed that this was a County matter and that a County officer would need to be called to handle the situation. Becky and Angela took the officer who had stopped them out to the trailer and pointed out Lady's oozing eye, Romeo's swollen jaw, neck and whip welts on his back. There was no comment from the officer, and no sign of concern. Becky asked that a vet be called, and that she would guarantee that HorseAid would pay for the vet's services. Her request was refused.
While waiting for the County officer, Sally Stokes and an unidentified woman arrived. They were screaming, and cursing obscenities at Becky, Angela, and Angela's children. Becky read the part of the contract (section 9., "DISCLOSURE and RIGHT to INSPECT" section 9.4 specifically, reproduced below) to Mrs. Stokes that stated that HorseAid has right to trespass; that no notification of a visit is needed; and that HorseAid has the right to take the animals "for any reason." Becky also pointed out the no breeding, no exceptions, part of the contract and told Mrs. Stokes about finding the stallion and mares together.
The Deputy Sheriff, Larry Johnson, arrived after approximately one hour. Mrs. Stokes called her attorney and he faxed over copies of the contracts. Becky explained the contracts, about HorseAid, why they where there to repossess the ponies, etc., to Johnson. At that time the Deputy Sheriff did not see any problem with HorseAid taking the ponies.
Mrs. Stokes then asked to talk to the officer alone. After talking to Mrs. Stokes (Floyd Stokes' daughter-in-law) the officer asked Angela and Becky to come back in, he told them that he would have to place them under arrest. It had been decided that they had stolen the ponies; and that they were in possession of false documents (the "false documents" charge was never filed or mentioned again).
HorseAid has verified that
nobody in attendance at the time this decision was made is licensed to practice
law before the
bar in the State of California (the judicial district of the contracts)
or in the States of Kansas or Missouri (where the contracts were signed).
Yet, someone in that office deemed themselves competent enough to interpret
the contract law of three states and then "rule"
on the language of the contracts "on the spot", and then pass that
decision on to the Deputy Sheriff. So what should have been a purely civil
matter escalated into the mess it had now become.
and dated contract
between IGHA/HorseAid and Floyd Stokes
(the son and daughter-in-law have the same exact contract terms)
Wording (unedited) from the contract that the Stokes (and every HorseAid adopter) agree to:
9. DISCLOSURE AND RIGHT TO INSPECT
9.1. ADOPTER agrees to at all times disclose the primary physical address of where said EQUINE is to be quartered, and to notify the I.G.H.A. by written notice before such primary location is substituted, and to so include the substituted physical address of where said EQUINE is to be relocated. No change of primary physical location may be effected without prior inspection and approval of the new location. ADOPTER further agrees to notify the I.G.H.A. within five (5) days by written notice of any change or modification of any of the ADOPTER's personal information contained herein.
9.2. ADOPTER shall at all times permit and grant, or be permitted and granted, to any designated agent(s) or representative(s) of HorseAid, the right of unconditional trespass (including equipment required for the inspection or recording of said EQUINE) upon any such physical location where said EQUINE is located (or believed to be) for the purpose of inspection or recording of said EQUINE or its environment without prior notification to ADOPTER/ADOPTER's agent.
9.3. In the event that said EQUINE is to be boarded at a commercial stable or any facility that causes fees or charges to be generated by the placement of such EQUINE thereon by ADOPTER or ADOPTER's agent, then shall such stable or facility be expressly given notice that said EQUINE is part of the HorseAid program, and be furnished with the current I.G.H.A. voice mail telephone number and I.G.H.A./HorseAid mailing address. In the event that HA has to remove said EQUINE from any such stable or facility because of a threat of lien against said EQUINE, or because HA determines that said EQUINE has been placed in harm's way, or by failure of ADOPTER to fully conform to any aspect of this Agreement, then HA shall have the right to recover any and all damages incurred in removing said EQUINE from any such stable or facility.
9.4. ADOPTER stipulates that by signing this Agreement that this signed Agreement, or a true copy thereof, becomes prima facie evidence of HA's interest and sole ownership in and of said EQUINE and that ADOPTER has so agreed and stipulated to waive any and all rights to due process in the enforcement of this Agreement by HA. ADOPTER further agrees that the I.G.H.A., HA, or any of its duly authorized representatives shall have the right to remove said EQUINE from ADOPTER's custody at any time, and from any such place that said EQUINE is quartered without prior notification, demand or due process, and that in the event that HA has to remove said EQUINE from ADOPTER's custodial care, that HA shall have the right to recover any and all damages incurred in removing said EQUINE from ADOPTER's custodial care regardless of any cause, reason or circumstance.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have executed this Agreement as of the date set forth above (EFFECTIVE DATE). All signed copies of this HORSEAID EQUINE ADOPTION AGREEMENT shall be deemed originals. All terms, covenants, and conditions of this Agreement are deemed to have been agreed upon and accepted by all parties within the judicial and physical jurisdiction of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, County of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Exactly what part of section 9.4 did the Stokes' not understand?
July 13, 1999 (cont'd) - Becky requested to call Enzo Giobbé and her mother, Leslie Ober, and Angela asked to call her husband to arrange for him to come get the children. At that time they were informed by an officer that they were on a 20 hour hold (they ended up being held for 23 hours) so that it could be decided what they would be charged with and that no phone calls or visitors were allowed during that time.
Deputy Sheriff Johnson interceded and said that he would take the numbers and make the calls. Under orders of his superiors, Deputy Sheriff Johnson took Angela and the boys to return the ponies to the Stokes in Angela's personal vehicle, even though Angela protested doing so.
In effect, Angela's vehicle and trailer (her personal property), was commandeered under color of authority, and Angela forced to return the ponies to the Stokes son and daughter-in-law. At this point, Angela was under arrest, and was moved under the sole control of a male officer. Angela's children, who were not under arrest and obviously frightened, were also forced to go along.
Whomever ordered this action (and it appears not to have been Deputy Sheriff Johnson), did this without any regard for the safety of the children or of Angela, or Angela's personal property. HorseAid wonders what kind of laws exist in Ray County that allow these types of blatant civil rights abuses, abuses that also involve children?
Sally Stokes followed Angela and the Deputy Sheriff to the trailer, and when she approached Lady, the mare showed visible fear of her. (Also noted by Deputy Sheriff Johnson.) Mrs. Stokes was trying to put Lady back into her dark, closed-off stall - Lady refused.
As the ponies were being unloaded they all showed a fear of Mrs. Stokes; Juliet tried so hard to get away, that she fell to the ground twice. When Mrs. Stokes attempted to tie Juliet to a post, the mare thrashed around so violently that there was concern by Angela for the mare's safety. Angela unloaded Romeo and attempted to put him into a larger pasture - away from the mares. Mrs. Stokes told her no, to put him with the mares. Angela said no, he couldn't be with the mares. Mrs. Stokes insisted. Once Romeo was released with the mares, he mounted Juliet and attempted to breed. Mrs. Stokes began screaming for someone to help her separate the two ponies. As Deputy Sheriff Johnson witnessed the mounting, Angela pointed out to him that this was a violation of the contract.
While at the Stokes' residence, Deputy Sheriff Johnson took pictures of where the ponies had lived. On the way back to the police station, the Deputy Sheriff told Angela that he had once owned a previously abused Arabian stallion.
Becky waited 1 1/2 hours for Angela, the boys, and the officer to return. They were then loaded into a police car and taken to jail. Angela requested to stay with the boys until their father arrived - her request was denied. Angela asked if she could get something for her kids to eat - the officer she asked refused, saying "I'm not going to let you do that, ma'am. This is serious."
Whoa, let's put that into the proper perspective. The woman caught allegedly attempting to kill her son's girlfriend for insurance money gets free run of the jail house, but the two young women who were trying to reclaim HorseAid's ponies because they were not receiving even basic care (as pre stipulated by the Stokes in their contact with us) are put in a maximum security lockdown area and not allowed to make even one telephone call?
The boys were then removed and taken to the front public area while Becky and Angela were booked. They were then taken to the jail cell. Angela was given no information about the boys, if they had eaten, if they had been picked up, etc.
Finally, Angela was allowed by Deputy Sheriff Johnson to call her husband to come get the boys. At approximately 7:15 p.m., Angela was processed into the jail. She asked why she was there, and a police officer replied, "supposed" theft of animals and "supposed" burglary. Angela was taken to the bathroom by a female police officer and made to change into the jail uniform. She was then taken to her jail cell. She asked again to stay with the boys until their father came - her request was again refused.
The children were kept in the public waiting area of the jail and they were left completely unattended for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Angela's husband did pick them up at approximately 8:30 p.m., but he was never asked for any form of I.D. before leaving with the children.
They were told they were on a 20 hour "lockdown" - Angela doesn't know why. There were no phone calls allowed during this lockdown. Angela and Becky were placed in a cell with a woman who was caught driving on a revoked license while taking her son to the hospital, a woman who was in for allegedly selling her daughter for bond money to bail out her boyfriend from jail, and another, who was allegedly caught attempting to kill her son's girlfriend for insurance money.
July 14, 1999 - Becky and Angela spent a sleepless night in jail. The next morning the lights were turned on about 7:15 a.m. They ate a meager breakfast and were then made to clean the jail. Afterwards they were let out into a bullpen area where they could play cards and watch television. After lunch they were told their bond was $7,500 each. The charges were: four counts of horse theft and 2nd degree burglary. They never saw a judge (contrary to local newspaper reports) and no bail hearing was ever held.
Once they were released on the $15,000 bond, they went to the impound
lot to pick up Angela's truck and trailer. When they arrived they found
that they were being charged $125 for a tow that never occurred and $25
per day for two days (7:00 p.m. Tuesday to 3:00 p.m. Wednesday). Angela
paid by check and they all went to Angela's house. Becky retrieved her
truck and went home.
the recent past...
As far as we knew, Lady was still being penned in a dark, windowless stall. In those past two weeks, daytime temperatures have soared above the 100 degree mark in the Lawson area. When checked on that Thursday (July 29), the ponies were nowhere to be seen on the Stokes property and it was feared that they were again locked in the barn (the person doing the checking would have had to trespass to check the barn), the temperature outside was well over 100 degrees on that day.
The ponies were checked again on August 2, and were observed on the Stokes property next to the barn, where they are at least getting some relief from the severe heatwave gripping the area. Lady could not be identified as one of the two adult ponies observed.
While they have not yet sent us a notification from their DVM as required in their contract, we have heard from a reliable source that the Stokes' finally had the stallion ("Romeo") gelded, AFTER this incident occurred. Having the HorseAid stallion Romeo gelded was one of the problems that Becky was having with these adopters. Becky has been trying to get them to comply with the "gelding clause" of their signed contract since November of 1998 (the procedure apparently took place on July 14, 1999 - 7 months and 6 days AFTER the 30 days allotted to do so).
It was clearly stated in the cover sheet that Floyd Stokes received with his application and again with his contracts (reproduced at the top of this Web page), that the stallion had to be gelded within 30 days of the signing of the contract. Anybody thinking that Becky or HorseAid acted "without regard" in this matter, needs to take a good look at their calendar (actually two calendars - 1998 and 1999!).
If the Stokes thought they did not have to comply with the terms of their signed contract, why do it now? It is clear by their prior actions over that 7 month and 6 day period, that the Stokes only complied because "all of a sudden HorseAid got serious". That we did, but only after giving them opportunity after opportunity to comply.
We don't allow the breeding of any HorseAid horse because one of the reasons so many horses go to slaughter or are left to just "hang on" in a neglected or abused state, is because there are more horses in this country than there are people willing to responsibly care for them.
don't solve a problem with a problem now do you? We still don't know if
the HorseAid mare ("Juliet") that Romeo was allegedly allowed
to breed has "taken", but if she has, any resulting foal will
be a part of the HorseAid programme for life.
the future (and beyond)...
The IGHA/HorseAid general counsel is filing complaints against several parties involved in this case because of their active involvement and continued interference with HorseAid in trying to remove all the adopted ponies from the Stokes control.
This is in addition to the various ongoing civil suits being prepared against individuals in several states who were involved in this particular anti-rescue fiasco and other disruptive anti-rescue actions we were involved in across state lines (more on this later).
Some of these individuals (all named in our general complaint to be filed in district court) going so far as to make death threats on the IGHA CEO and others involved with our organization.
Several of these people had also helped the Stokes set up a Web site (showing how "well taken care of" their ponies are, yeah, sure...) and continued to post on the various message boards that HA was wrong and "criminal" in trying to remove Lady and the rest of the Miami County rescued ponies they adopted from Don and Sally Stokes, and what great adopters they are. These same people posted that Becky Burns and Angela Williams should serve long prison sentences for their "crimes".
Much has been said about the court proceedings, but the facts are (from the actual court transcript of the entire trial) that the judge only ruled on ONE single issue; were the HorseAid volunteers guilty of horse theft or not?
The answer (as stated in his full ruling) was no. He did not rule on the Stokes abuses of their adopted ponies, nor did he rule on the legality of the contract (in fact, the HorseAid adoption contract has never been ruled invalid in any court of law here or abroad). How could he? The only charges were for horse theft and 2nd degree burglary, and on those charges, he ruled that the HorseAid volunteers were innocent of any wrong-doing and went on to dismiss all charges against them with prejudice.
Because of the continued threats, the IGHA Board of Directors will not place any MO or KS volunteers in harm's way until after the court cases are filed and at least some, resolved. It may take two years or more (late '00 or early '01) to properly prepare our lawsuit against these individuals (ISP's have to be subpoenaed, message board posts have to be verified as coming from the people that the posts are attributed to, people have to be interviewed and depositions taken, etc.), and in that time, we can only hope that those individuals trying so hard to tweak our nose, realize that wherever happens to Lady and the rest of the ponies under the Stokes control may well rest on their actions (positive or negative).
At any time, they could have stopped their harassment of us and helped remove Lady from the abuse, but they chose to support the Stokes instead, and by doing so, abandoned any and all hope that Lady ever had.
Eventually, they will all back pedal from that stance, but by then, their actions and statements will be a matter of public record for all to read (and to finally understand) how one small pony was caused to be abandoned from the rescue she so desperately needed, just to stroke their huge egos.
Sadly, the HorseAid mare Lady died of starvation (severe malnutrition) at the hands of those very same "good and caring adopters" these idiots were defending — before we could find and remove her (how ironic, considering she had already survived the unspeakable horrors of Neuman Stern's farm).
Shame on you! Shame on
epilogue (well, sort of)...
Epilogue (for 2000/2004) coming soon! (With full details about the resolved legal actions we filed, and some details on the ones yet to be filed.)
Newly added extra: Becky's response to critics of the Miami County Pony Rescuesm — one of the many verified posts from the "Inside the Web" message board that our attorneys subpoenaed.
Inside the Web (ITW), the world's largest and most popular Web message board of its time, closed their doors under a consent agreement with IGHA/HorseAid in order to avoid further costly litigation which we had initiated on behalf of our HorseAid volunteers.
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