Boonsboro (MD) farmer fined, gets probation in animal-cruelty case (7-22-15)
A Boonsboro-area livestock farmer who faced more than 300 animal-cruelty charges left Washington County District Court on Wednesday with a $500 fine and three years of unsupervised probation.
In a bench trial that took three separate days to complete, District Judge Terry A. Myers found Daniel Rohrer Jr., guilty on five of 20 counts that remained, but granted Rohrer probation before judgment and imposed $2,500 in fines — $2,000 of which were suspended.
Myers also ordered Rohrer to adhere to a farm-management plan that had been drafted by farm agency representatives of both the prosecution and the defense, as well as permit periodic inspections of his property by the Humane Society of Washington County to ensure the plan is followed.
The guilty findings included three counts related to failing to provide proper living space for some of the animals and two counts for causing unnecessary pain and suffering to sheep and goats with overgrown hooves.
Rohrer was acquitted on charges that he failed to provide proper food and water to his animals.
“We are pleased with the outcome,” defense attorney Rebekah D. Lusk said afterward. “We would have preferred if there had been no finding of guilt on anything, however, we are very happy that the five guilty verdicts were stricken.”
Rohrer, 61, was originally charged with 318 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty last November, when the humane society acted on a complaint and executed a warrant to seize 95 animals from his farm.
It took authorities more than two weeks to corral and move the animals to foster farms at undisclosed locations.
All but 30 counts were dropped by the prosecution prior to the trial.
Rohrer said afterward that the case, as well as losing his animals, has “ruined” him financially. He has been kicked out of the farmer’s market and lost all his connections with area restaurants that previously bought his meats, Rohrer said.
“I’m doing 30 percent of the business I did this time last year,” he said. “With all the animals they’ve taken away from me, … even though I guess you can say I won the trial, it’s basically ruined me financially. It will be a long hard ordeal to come back.”
Prior to sentencing, Assistant State’s Attorney Michele Hansen asked Myers to consider some jail time for Rohrer “to learn his lesson,” requesting a 450-day suspended sentence, 90 days for each of the five guilty counts.
Defense attorney John Salvatore acknowledged that the guilty counts are crimes, but he said they were not “egregious violations.”
“He has been terribly damaged by this whole process,” Salvatore said, noting that he felt the case warranted probation before judgment.
The humane society has called Rohrer’s farm one of the “most disturbing case of cruelty” it had seen, alleging it found many malnourished and emaciated livestock as well as rotting animal carcasses.
Humane society disappointed
Kimberley Intino, chief executive officer of the society, said she was disappointed by the court ruling.
“But we were very pleased that there were five counts of cruelty found and that the judge used terms such as ‘suffering,’ ‘callousness’ and ‘cruelty’ with regard to those animals,” she said. “And that he found that it was important that animals not be allowed to have overgrown hooves and suffer in pain and that they not have to live among dead and rotting carcasses.”
Intino said that the charges brought against Rohrer did not represent an isolated incident, and the humane society has recorded complaints about his farm for years.
“… This has been systematic neglect and abuse of these animals,” she said. “It’s not just simply a one-time thing, so we were pleased that guilty verdicts were found.”
Wednesday’s ruling ends the criminal proceedings in the case, but Rohrer’s livestock remain in the custody of the humane society pending the conclusion of a civil case in Washington County Circuit Court in December.
Rohrer will continue to fight to get his animals back, Lusk said.
“He was never going to relinquish them, and he’s not going to relinquish them now,” she said. “… I do think that any farmer in Washington County should be scared that the humane society has the right to come in and take animals and hold them and continue to hold them when clearly they don’t have the evidence to prove their case.”
Rohrer still faces a charge of intimidating an animal-control officer in April. A hearing in that case is slated for Aug. 5 at 8:30 a.m., in district court.
Incident ID # 200132