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Trial Set for Accused Animal Abuser

Posted on Oct 6, 2006 - 12:58 PM
Trial set for accused animal abuser

September 28, 2006

By Stephen Seitz Herald Staff

BENNINGTON Accused animal abuser Larry R. Mason almost wound up in jail Tuesday after missing a scheduled court appearance.

Mason, 52, was on the District Court calendar to appear at 9 a.m. He appeared in the early afternoon, claiming he had gotten the hearing date wrong. Jury selection in his case is scheduled for late October.

Mason, a New Hampshire resident prosecutors describe as homeless, faces two misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals Bennington police discovered 29 filthy and possibly maltreated dogs living in a school bus in July.

When Mason failed to show up for his morning hearing, Deputy State's Attorney Andrew Costello asked for an arrest warrant and bail set at $25,000.

"It would be hard to find someone with fewer ties to the community than Mr. Mason," Costello said. "His mailing address is general delivery in Newport, N.H. and he's living as a transient now."

Public Defender Frederick Bragdon replied that $25,000 was a little steep.

"We're looking at two misdemeanors with a year and a maximum fine of $1,000 each," Bragdon said. "He checks in with my office regularly. He's been picking up his mail with us. He'll probably come in later this afternoon or tomorrow and come to court then."

Judge David A. Howard issued an arrest warrant with bail set at $1,500. A short time later, Mason contacted the public defender's office and was told of his mistake. He immediately came to the courthouse.

Howard canceled the warrant, but admonished Mason not to miss a court date again.

"You need to be more on top of it," said the judge. "If we'd scheduled a hearing with witnesses, you'd be sitting in jail until we rescheduled the hearing."

Mason was arrested July 18, when someone complained about the school bus parked at the Top Notch Diner on Route 9 in Bennington. Police said at the time that the stench of dog excrement and urine was powerful, and that some of the dogs had broken bones.

Mason pleaded innocent to the cruelty charges. Pretrial arguments are scheduled for Oct. 30; jury selection could begin Nov. 2.

Mason also faces a civil complaint asking him to forfeit his dogs and the right to own dogs. He is contesting that action.

"I have instructions from my client to fight this all the way," Bragdon told Howard.

Contact Stephen Seitz at stephen.seitz@rutlandherald.com.



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