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Painted Pastures Animal Cruelty Case Will Start Over

A new bench trial against the owner of Dazzle's Painted Pastures Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Tinley Park is slated for May 2. The mistrial stems from the state's key witness being indicted on federal extortion charges.

A Cook County judge on Monday said a animal cruelty case will start over, ruling it a mistrial on grounds that federal extortion charges recently filed against the state’s key witness have prevented the defendant from getting a fair trial.

Cook County sheriff’s police from Dazzle’s Painted Pastures Animal Rescue and Sanctuary more than a year ago after a former employee complained of poor conditions. The raid, spearheaded by Officer Larry Draus, netted Painted Pastures owner Dawn Hamill more than 30 charges related to animal cruelty and neglect.

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Draus, an officer with the Cook County animal crimes unit and police vice unit, was from a federal informant posing as a trafficker for contraband cigarettes. The Cook County Sheriff's Office had been cooperating with federal authorities in an undercover probe of Draus and his son—also indicted—since summer 2011.

On March 7, 2012, , prosecutors presented evidence on a third of the charges that relied heavily on Draus’ word, as well as photographs and video the officer took of Painted Pastures and some of its animals.

Draus testified finding a dead cat, a dead miniature horse and eight sickly puppies in an unheated garage, their food and bodies matted with urine and feces.

Prosecutors argued Monday that the charges now facing Draus are unrelated to Hamill’s case and should therefore have no bearing on his testimony, which was corroborated by several other witnesses.

Hamill’s lead attorney, Purav Bhatt, said the charges—though filed after Draus testified on March 7—impacted his ability to properly cross examine Draus and was therefore a Constitutional issue of due process. The indictment, he noted, alleges that Draus was under investigation by federal and county authorities, and was participating in illegal activity, while helping the state build a case against Hamill.

Cook County Judge Christopher Donnelly sided with the defense on the matter of due process, but he denied Bhatt’s motions to dismiss both the charges against Hamill and the search warrant that led to those charges.

Throughout the first day of trial Bhatt challenged Draus' credibility as a witness, showing, in one instance, how a food bowl which Draus' report said didn’t exist in a dead cat’s cage could be seen in the officer’s own video.

The since Draus' arrest in March.

A spokesperson for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office declined to say whether Draus would be used as a witness when a bench trial begins anew on May 2.

In court, Donnelly read aloud an anonymous letter he recently received defending Draus and asking that the officer’s testimony against Hamill be allowed to stand because “two wrongs don’t make a right.” The judge described the letter as “ridiculous” and “outrageous” and put it on record, he said, so that it would not happen again.

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michelle April 10, 2012 at 01:02 PM
All we can do now is pray that this judge will take a stand for the neglect and abuse to animals. ALL animals . He needs to make a stern example of the Painted Pastures Clan.
Hamish April 10, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Got any cigs?
Marylou April 11, 2012 at 02:55 PM
It's too bad none of you have any idea what you are talking about. The real culprit is the so called manager that Dawn trusted to care for the animals while she was busy getting donations and make sure there was pleanty of care for every animal. Have any of you bothered to check out the Barn manager. I kinow that Dawn would never let anything happen to an animal if she was aware of what was going on. Check all the lies that have been told by the Barn Manager and other people who just want to cause problems for her.
Dina May 30, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Marylou were you ever at Painted Pastures?? I think not....How can poor DAWN blame everyone else.She lives on the property.She must not have checked on the animals very often because that mess DID NOT happen over night.She was busy getting donations and making sure there was plenty of care for ALL the ANIMALS.If that was the case why was it in such horrific conditions.She needs to put her big girl panties on and admit to what she has done and needs to suffer just like the poor animals did..You and whoever else could blame the Barn Manager the FACT is this is DAWN'S PROPERTY and she is responsible for what goes on there.DAWN may have had some people fooled but the proof is in the PICTURES!!!!!!!!!! How can anyone even think of defending a person that has done these horrible things to the animals???????
Bernie May 31, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Marylou, its funny that you claim to know what was going on there. If you knew what was happening there you would know that there was no barn manager for the last 2 weeks before this raid. Dawn lived on the property and knew exactly what was going on, but did nothng.

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