November 13, 2019
A plea deal seems probable in “puppy mill” case
Vernine and Barton Gipstein face indictment Nov. 25 in Fauquier County Circuit Court.
Just as my client (Vernine Gipstein) voluntarily surrendered the animals at issue, she also voluntarily waived her right to a preliminary hearing today. We look forward to being in Fauquier Circuit Court on Nov. 25 to receive the grand jury’s decision.
— Defense attorney Brooke Howard
Signs point to a plea agreement with a couple who allegedly operated a “puppy mill” near Midland.
Fauquier County Animal Control deputies on Sept. 11 seized 80 dogs from the Folly Court home of Vernine Barbara Gipstein and Barton Mannes Gipstein.
Ms. Gipstein, 69, and Mr. Gipstein, 75, face one count of felony animal cruelty each.
But the commonwealth’s attorney dropped a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge against Ms. Gipstein in Fauquier General District Court on Wednesday afternoon.
During their brief Nov. 13 court appearance, the Gipsteins waived preliminary hearings on the felony charges before Judge J. Gregory Ashwell.
The prosecution’s decision to drop charges and a defendant’s choice to skip the preliminary hearing phase of a case typically signal an interest in pursuing a plea agreement.
A guilty plea agreement could involve reduced and/or amended charges to soften a sentence.
Animal cruelty carries a penalty of one to five years in prison per count.
A preliminary hearing allows a general district court judge to determine whether probable cause exists to certify criminal charges to a circuit court grand jury.
Waiving a preliminary hearing has no bearing on defendants’ guilt or innocence. But, it does acknowledge that probable cause exists for charges filed.
Brooke Howard represents Ms. Gipstein. Ryan Huttar represents Mr. Gipstein.
Both Warrenton attorneys declined to discuss their respective clients’ reasons for waiving the preliminary hearings.
But, Mr. Howard said after Wednesday’s hearing: “Just as my client voluntarily surrendered the animals at issue, she also voluntarily waived her right to a preliminary hearing today. We look forward to being in Fauquier circuit court on Nov. 25 to receive the grand jury’s decision.”
A grand jury decides whether to indict defendants on one or all charges. If indicted, defendants’ options include seeking a jury or bench trial, a plea agreement or dismissal of charges.
Sheriff’s deputies on Sept. 11 executed a search warrant of the Gipstiens’ home “after receiving an anonymous tip” and seized “a large number of dogs in poor condition,” Sgt. James Hartman said in a press release.
The tip came “from someone who had come into contact with the facility,” Sgt. Hartman added. “The person was shown a dog to purchase and alleged the dog was noticeably not well cared for and had fleas. The information alleged the facility was breeding and dealing in Wheaten Terriers.”
While Ms. Gipstein, who owns the kennel, “would not grant full access to the property to determine the welfare of the dogs,” Sgt. Hartman said, “deputies observed numerous dogs and other things that led them to believe the dogs were not being properly cared for. The investigation also determined the facility was not properly licensed.
“Deputies returned to the property a few days later at an agreed-upon time to further the investigation. When they arrived, they encountered Gipstein blocking the driveway. During the investigation Gipstein was unable to produce proper paperwork she allegedly had regarding the dogs and facility.”
Animal Control Deputy Marisa Efaw continued to investigate and obtained a search warrant, executed that afternoon.
“Deputies discovered many dogs in poor condition, in extremely unsanitary conditions and most had no access to water,” Sgt. Hartman said. “Eighty dogs were seized as a result of the search warrant. Many of the terriers were in poor health with matted, tangled fur. One terrier was found to have an exposed femur on one leg.”
Deputies took the dogs to the Fauquier SPCA shelter near Casanova.
Ms. Gipstein remains free on a $3,000 unsecured bond; Mr. Gipstein remains free on a $2,500 unsecured bond.
Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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deanyj123 · November 15, 2019 at 3:48 pm
The penalty is one to five years in jail per count. Were'nt there 80 dogs abused or neglected?
They knew what they were doing. NO PLEA DEAL. Serve time. AND, don't give the dogs back for any reason.
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