Charles “Chuck” Borell, father of horse trainer Maria Borell, will not serve jail time after accepting a plea deal Thursday on charges related to the abandonment of 43 horses in Mercer County.
Borell entered an Alford plea to nine of 43 misdemeanor counts of second-degree animal cruelty, meaning that he did not admit wrongdoing but accepted that there is sufficient evidence against him for a conviction.
Borell, 69, could have faced 176 days in jail, but Mercer District Court Judge Jeff Dotson probated that time for two years provided that Borell has no other offenses and does not assume a caretaker role for any animals in Kentucky.
The remaining 34 counts of animal cruelty were merged and dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
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In addition, Borell relinquishes any interest in all 43 horses that were found abandoned and in poor health in late June on a Mercer County farm. Three horses were emaciated, state officials said at the time.
An arrest warrant had also been issued for Maria Borell on 43 counts of second-degree animal cruelty. But that warrant has not been served because she is out of state. In 2015, she was the trainer of Runhappy, winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.
Thursday’s plea comes after state and local officials filed a lawsuit earlier this month in Mercer Circuit Court seeking legal ownership of the horses.
The suit asked a judge to require the Borells to pay the costs incurred for the horses’ care. More than $20,000 had been spent on temporary care for the horses at the time the suit was filed.
As part of Thursday’s plea agreement, Charles Borell forfeits a $4,300 bond. That money will be applied toward the care of the horses, which were moved from Mercer County to 14 farms in Central Kentucky.
Borell had served three days in jail after his arrest earlier this year.
Borell had no comment after court. His attorney, Larry Catlett of Harrodsburg, said Borell “wanted his day in court but the risks were too great.”
“He thinks he is being railroaded. He thinks it is unjust,” Catlett said.
Borell feels he was “double-crossed” by people he had hired to feed and care for the horses, Catlett said. “The people he relied upon failed him,” Catlett added.
But Borell chose to accept a plea agreement rather than go to trial because he doesn’t have the money to fight it in court, Catlett said.
Joe Bilby, a lawyer for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, had no comment after the court proceeding.
Rena Elswick, a member of the Woodford County Humane Society’s board of directors, and who has attended each court proceeding in the Borell case, said she was disappointed with the resolution.
“I think the Department of Agriculture just wants to get out of it as quickly as possible,” Elswick said.
Elswick said Borell should have faced greater punishment after “the horses were left to starve.”
The horses have been improving after they were seized and moved to farms in Fayette, Scott and Bourbon counties. Some went to Blackburn Correctional Center, where they were cared for by inmates in a vocational training program.
Among the horses at Blackburn were Z Camelot, who was once an entry in the Florida Derby.