Sunday, October 19, 2003

Illinois: Marshall Keun, 39, was facing 3 years in prison for felony animal cruelty. Instead, Kane County Judge Grant Wegner gives him probation.

ILLINOIS -- A Burlington man who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges for starving horses and a dog avoided prison Friday but must volunteer 250 hours at an animal shelter or humane society.

Kane County Judge Grant Wegner also sentenced Marshall Keun, 39, of 13N209 French Road, to 30 months probation, including 60 days on electronic home monitoring, a psychiatric exam and nearly $1,000 in fines. Keun is forbidden from having animals on his farm.

"There's a great deal of love you feel back from animals," Wegner said. "I don't understand how you did what you did."

A volunteer from the Woodstock-based Hooved Animal Humane Society visited Keun's farm three times over a year before he was arrested in March on charges of aggravated cruelty to animals. On each of those visits, he was cited and told to clean up his farm and feed his animals properly.

Carole Varetoni, a Kane County animal control officer, testified that during the Marchæ27 visit which led to his arrest, she discovered a weary wolf hybrid, caged with its pups, below a raccoon in a filthy cage. Both pens were filled with feces and no food or water were in sight.

Further inspecting the property, Varetoni said she found two "extremely thin" horses as well as a horse's corpse that was dragged out to a fire pit. A necropsy later revealed the horse died of starvation. Small rocks found in its colon suggested it was desperate for food.

Varetoni also found a dead setter mix dog, which also died of starvation. Six dead newborn kittens were found in two separate plastic grocery store bags tossed into trees and another dead kitten and a dead rabbit were found nearby. A necropsy revealed the rabbit starved.

Deb Bree, Kane County assistant state's attorney, asked Wegner to send a message that animals must be cared for by sentencing Keun to prison. Keun was eligible for a three-year sentence and a fine up to $25,000.

"If we think about the hunger we feel when we're ready for lunch, these animals felt that for over a year," Bree said.

Keun's attorney Sandra Parga argued for a lighter sentence, saying he had no criminal history and pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals even though he didn't have a deal with prosecutors. Parga also said he has sole custody of his 14-year-old daughter and a steady job.

After the hearing, in which Keun did not testify, Lydia Gray, Hooved Animal Humane Society executive director, said she was disappointed Keun didn't receive prison time.

As for Keun's mandatory volunteer service time, he won't be spending it with the humane society's horses, Gray said.

"He's not coming to the Hooved Animal Humane Society," she said. "I was surprised the judge suggested that because he's going to have to be supervised 100 percent of the time."

(Daily Herald - Oct 18, 2003)