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Woodstock horse cruelty charges reduced to misdemeanors

WOODSTOCK – The pair accused of leaving a horse's halter on so long that it had to be surgically removed had their felony animal cruelty charges reduced to misdemeanors.

James G. Militello Jr., 69, and Kelly Militello, 55, both of Woodstock, had charges reduced from aggravated cruelty to animals to neglecting an owner's duties.

The maximum punishment on a Class B misdemeanor is 180 days of jail, as opposed to the felony charge, which – if found guilty – the Militellos could have been sentenced to one to three years in prison.

According to the criminal complaint filed in June, a horse in the Militello's care had a halter worn so tight and for so long that it had become embedded into the animal's face and required surgery to remove. The horse, a miniature Falabella suffered serious face, neck and head injuries

Assistant State's Attorney Kate Lenhard said the reason she agreed to reduce the charge came down to one word: intent. Lenhard said it would have been difficult to prove that the Militello's intended to harm the rare breed miniature horse by not replacing its halter.

James Militello's defense attorney, William Caldwell, says that his client, also a once prominent local attorney, did not have the legal obligation to provide care for the animal. The horse's owner, Carol Swinford and his co-defendant Kelly Militello had the responsibility.

Swinford has said that she lent the horse to Kelly Militello to be a companion animal for another Militello horse. Swinford retrieved the animal when James Militello called to ask her to take it back. That's when Swinford saw the horse's grisly injuries, she said at the time the pair was charged.

The Militello's case was moved before McHenry County Judge Michael Feetterer after Judge Gordon Graham recused himself. The pair's next court date is Oct. 16.

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