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Shoreham Man Pleads Guilty on Cruelty Charges

Posted on Jul 29, 2008 - 9:30 AM
Addison Independent
ORWELL — A Shoreham man will forfeit his prized pulling tractor to the Addison County Humane Society (ACHS) as part of his punishment in a cruelty to animals case in which he was accused of having sexual relations with calves at the Orwell farm at which he worked.

It was on July 14 that Lewis Hanfield, 53, pleaded guilty in Addison County District Court to four misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals. Vermont State Police had originally cited Hanfield on a felony charge of lewd and lascivious conduct on April 29, stemming from allegations that he had had sexual intercourse with calves while working as a farmhand. State police launched their investigation into the matter this past spring after the young daughter of the farm owners told an adult that she had witnessed Hanfield doing “things” to the calves — including to her own prized calf.

The case, according to Addison County prosecutors, highlights the fact that there is no bestiality law in Vermont, meaning the court system must deal with such cases within the framework of “cruelty to animals” and other statutes currently on the books.

“I think it’s an interesting omission, given the rural nature of the state and the level of agriculture,” said Addison County Deputy State’s Chris Perkett, who prosecuted the case.

Court records indicate that Hanfield had been employed at the Orwell farm for around five years. The crimes in question occurred in the farm’s heifer barn and had been witnessed on several occasions by the property owners’ young girl. The girl came forward with information at the encouragement of an adult confidante, who reported the matter to state police this spring.

“The (girl) was very traumatized by the defendant’s criminal behavior,” Perkett said.

While Hanfield had no previous record and the cruelty to animal charges lodged against him were misdemeanors, Perkett credited Addison County District Court Judge Helen M. Toor with meting out an “equitable punishment, given the facts of the case.”

That punishment, according to court records, includes:

• A suspended sentence of six months to 12 months.

• An indefinite period of probation.

• No direct contact with farm animals, nor any unsupervised contact with minors younger than 18.

• A ban from attending the 2008 Addison County Farm and Home Field Days. Perkett explained that the girl in this case has showed animals at Fields Days and the court does not want to run the risk of her accidentally encountering Hanfield at the annual fair next month.

• Forfeiture, to the ACHS, of Hanfield’s pulling tractor, a piece of equipment that could net the Humane Society several thousand dollars, according to Perkett.

“It’s a way for the Humane Society to raise money for other animals in danger,” Perkett said.

Jackie Rose, executive director of the ACHS, said she would have gladly traded the tractor revenues for the animal abuse events to have never happened.

“Of course, it’s bittersweet,” Rose said. “We wish the event had never occurred.

“We will take the donation and are thankful that the judge thought about us in the process,” she added.

Rose said the ACHS is in dire need of donations, as its shelter is maxed out and expenses — fuel, in particular — are on the rise.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said state prosecutors have not been asking him to advocate for bestiality laws in reaction to crimes against animals. He said he believes that at least for now, cruelty to animals statutes can appropriately be applied to cases such as Hanfield’s.

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