Prosecution will not seek jail time for woman accused of keeping more than 20 sick cats at her home
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- A city woman accused of holding more than 20 sick cats in her home faces trial on neglect charges in January -- with or without an attorney.
Charlotte Anne Wear, 63, of 344 Gray Ave., appeared Monday in Winchester General District Court where she is charged with five counts each of animal cruelty or neglect and failure to provide adequate care or space for cats in her home.
Animal cruelty is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Defendants charged with offenses for which a conviction can result in jail time have the right to apply for a court-appointed attorney, according to Judge Amy Tisinger.
However Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Derek Aston told Tisinger the prosecution would not seek any jail time in the case. By doing so, the court could no longer appoint an attorney to represent Wear, the judge explained.
Authorities accused Wear in early September of keeping at least 24 cats in her home, beyond the 13 allowed under an agreement reached with the city Police Department's animal control officer in April 2009. Officer Nancy Mellott took the felines to the SPCA, where many of the animals received treatment for illnesses. Several were euthanized after testing positive for feline immunodeficiency virus. Wear surrendered the cats voluntarily before the officer could seek a civil seizure order from the court.
Wear runs a nonprofit feline rescue operation in her home called Caring for Critters.
Aston told Tisinger the commonwealth has reason to believe Wear has more cats in her residence, but the judge did not take action on the prosecutor's allegations and a subsequent motion seeking to take any additional animals.
Tisinger set a trial in Wear's case for Jan. 18.
Outside the courtroom, Wear spoke with friends and supporters. Wear said she is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.
"I am devastated," Wear said, breaking down in tears. "I am not the person they characterize me as."
Wear noted she does not understand all the elements of the law and the courts needed to prepare her case and to represent herself.
"The animal issue hurts me a lot more than the cancer," Wear said.