In a move that a defense attorney called unexpectedly harsh, a Cook County judge sentenced the owner of a Tinley Park animal shelter Tuesday, Oct. 2, to serve a year of probation, enroll in a 30-day county work program and pay $8,000 in fines for her conviction on eight misdemeanor counts of violation of owner's duties.
READ: Jury Finds Owner of Animal Rescue Guilty on 8 of 10 Charges
Judge Anna Helen Demacopolous also ordered a psychiatric evaluation for the owner—Dawn Hamill, 43—saying that Hamill satisfies the state's legal definition of an animal hoarder. Until results of the evaluation come back, Hamill must surrender the animals at her Dazzle's Painted Pastures Animal Rescue and Sanctuary and can have no more than five personal pets.
"Miss Hamill may have a good heart and may be a good person," Demacopolous said during sentencing Tuesday, but added it doesn't appear she has "the mental ability to understand that these animals are not being kept in a humane way."
Hamill was convicted Sept. 14 of eight misdemeanor counts of violation of owner's duties in connection to eight puppies reportedly found in cold, filthy conditions during a , raid on her property. The seven-man, five-woman jury, however, found her not guilty on two counts of animal cruelty, stemming from the discovery of a miniature horse and a Himalayan cat found dead on the property during the same raid.
READ: Sentencing for Painted Pastures Owner Delayed; Case's Prosecutor Accused of Biting Man
Family members and supporters of Hamill gasped and cried during the judge's sentencing and one woman exclaimed, "Oh my God," as Demacopolous said Hamill would be fined $1,000 for each of the eight guilty counts.
Tuesday's sentencing had been . However, prosecutor Richard Stake Jr. also delivered a packet of letters against Hamill, including one from Kathleen Krainas, who testified against Hamill during her four-day trial.
Bhatt said the sentence was harsh, especially given the fact that Hamill has no criminal background.
"Although sentences are for punishment as well as rehabilitation, I think that based on the circumstances the sentence should lean more toward rehabilitation and prevention as opposed to punishment," Bhatt said.
Though Demacopolous mentioned three letters that showed strong support for the shelter owner by describing how she interacts with the animals, the judge said she didn't understand how Hamill went from a love of animals to deciding to operate an animal rescue in 2006.
"Something happened in 2006 that made her go from reasonable amounts of pets to this," the judge said, after learning that Hamill went from having five dogs to 30 as pets at home.
Hamill said the dogs she kept in her home had to be separated from the general population in the barn because they had special needs or illnesses that need medication. But Demacopolous didn't appear to be swayed.
Echoing the words from Stake's short arguments earlier that morning, Demacopolous said Hamill never took responsibility for the condition of her property, instead blaming former employees, Cook County officials and volunteers.
The judge also had strong words about the effectiveness of the Illinois Department of Agriculture officials, who cited Hamill on three separate occasions for improper conditions to keep dogs in the barn, yet "the fine is $200," Demacopolous said.
"There was a very constant theme: Almost everybody that went to Painted Pastures knew that it was not right the way the animals were being treated. …" the judge continued. "This court has extreme concern that the Department of Agriculture either does not have the ability through staffing issues or [through] sheer turning the other way to monitor the conditions that they are authorized to monitor under the statute."
Before the Tuesday's sentencing, both sides delivered brief statements. Stake wrapped up the case without co-counsel Sarah Naughton, who can't litigate cases while she is on administrative leave following an arrest during a reportedly drunken brawl outside a lingerie shop.
Stake continued with a familiar tone to his argument, drawing attention to Hamill as "Dazzle Dawn." He also asked Demacopolous to consider Hamill an animal hoarder and order the mental evaluation that accompanies that designation.
In his brief arguments, defense attorney Bhatt revealed that Hamill has been battling cervical cancer and that the legal fight around the charges "has taken a considerable toll on her." He had requested supervision for sentencing.
Bhatt told Patch after the hearing that Hamill will have to make arrangements for the animals on the property. Pending the results of the psychiatric evaluation, she might be able to continue running Painted Pastures, he said, and her sentence might also change.
Hamill will return to court Nov. 8. for a status hearing on the case.
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