A judge granted accelerated rehabilitation today to the 63-year-old Shelton man who was a neighbor’s horse late last year.
This court-granted process will keep Marian Wegiel out of jail and clear his record if he abides by the stipulations that come with it. At the pre-trial hearing at state Superior Court in Derby Thursday afternoon, Judge Burton Kaplan said the decision was not an easy one, given the the horse’s owners have continually expressed.
“In all my years this is probably one of the hardest cases I’ve come across,” Kaplan said. “No matter what you do, somebody’s not going to be happy."
Kaplan said he took Wegiel’s age, health conditions and the fact that he has no past criminal record into consideration when making the decision. Wegiel suffers from a range of medical conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, gout and multiple allergies, according to court papers.
His attorney, Ralph Crozier, said Wegiel takes at least eight different medications for these allergies. This, he claims, coupled with occasional drinking at the time of the incident, led to Wegiel’s behavior.
“But Mr. Wegiel has been 100 percent abstinent since October 2010,” Crozier said. “He is appearing in court as a recalcitrant, apologetic man. He has seven grandchildren, worked 42 years and is an upstanding American citizen. Three priests have given him glowing commendations over the years.”
When given a chance to address the courtroom, Wegiel looked over at the horse’s owner, Joan Flannery, and her daughters Christine and Alison. “I am so, so sorry,” he told them through tears.
“I’ve never had problems before and I will never have a problem again. Please let me take this program and I promise I will not fail,” Wegiel said to the judge.
Crozier was pleased with the judge’s ruling and said it is something his client deserves after complying with the court’s orders throughout the seven-month process.
“Mr. Wegiel underwent a psychiatric evaluation at Hall-Brooke Behavioral Health Services and they found nothing out of the ordinary,” Crozier said. “He was forced to pay for this out of pocket, and it was very, very expensive. But he wanted to do it in order to give a level of assurances to the court and the public.”
Crozier also said that Wegiel went beyond the court’s requirements by seeking intensive outpatient treatment and individual therapy, “so they would feel he at least did something.”
Wegiel was arrested on Oct. 18 after received a call from a Partridge Lane residence reporting that a man “appeared to be touching their horse in a sexual manner and the horse appeared to be in pain.”
Wegiel was charged with cruelty to animals, fourth-degree sexual assault, third-degree criminal trespassing and second-degree breach of peace.
The Flannery’s, accompanied in court by Priscilla Feral and Nancy Rice of Friends of Animals advocacy group, were deeply troubled by the judge’s ruling.
“I’m just speechless because I didn’t think it was going to end here today,” Flannery said as she left the courthouse crying. “Now we’re under pressure for the next two years. We have to watch our yard more vigilantly.”
She added that granting Wegiel accelerated rehabilitation “says you can get away with animal abuse.”
The following is required of Wegiel under the stipulations of his sentencing:
- Pay a $100 fee
- Continue therapy treatment until successfully discharged by doctors
- No contact with the victims
- No unsupervised contact with animals
- 50 hours of community service to be completed in one year
The terms of accelerated rehab apply for a full two years, and the judge firmly warned Wegiel of the consequences if he does not abide.
"If you violate any of these conditions, you will be brought back into court and put on trial," he said.