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Monday, October 5, 2009

Sheriff's Deputy, Animal Rights Advocate Indicted

Putnam sheriff's deputy, animal rights advocate indicted
The Journal News by Barbara Livingston Nackman - October 5, 2009
bnackman@lohud.com

CARMEL, NEW YORK - A Putnam County sheriff's deputy who has been under investigation for nearly three years was indicted this afternoon on charges of grand larceny, perjury and official misconduct. Barbara Dunn, 41, who had come under fire for alleged abuse of power and conflict of interest because she headed the Putnam County Humane Society at the same time she investigated animal abuse cases for the Sheriff's Office, was charged in a 28-count indictment that was unsealed in front of Westchester County Court Justice Jeffrey Cohen in the Putnam County Courthouse. Dunn, a deputy for some 13 years, pleaded not guilty to all charges during a brief arraignment where she appeared before Cohen with her attorneys.

She is charged with the theft of $56,000 after prosecutors say she lied about falling down a flight of stairs at the Putnam County Sheriff's Office when she was really injured after being thrown from her horse. The money, prosecutors say, represents salary that Dunn collected tax free under workers' compensation after claiming falsely that her June 3, 2008 injury was on-the-job. At the time she claims to have tumbled down the stairs at work, Dunn, a Dutchess County resident, was already under investigation after a Kent judge concluded that she lied on the stand during a July 2007 hearing on evidence she gathered in an animal abuse and neglect case. In that case, Dunn seized purebred Maltese belonging to Kent breeder Linda Nelson. Kent Judge J. Peter Collins said Dunn lied to the court about when and why she first entered Nelson's house, took photographs before securing a search warrant and did not tell the truth about the location of Nelson's dogs, 11 of which were seized and two puppies born afterward. The puppies were neutered without Nelson's knowledge and the Humane Society, which sued Nelson for $34,000 for the care of her animals, twice defied orders by Collins to hand over the dogs. Dunn, described by supporters as a dedicated animal rights advocate, had said the dogs at Nelson's house were found in two cramped cages without food and water, and that the cages were surrounded by piles of garbage and excrement. All charges against Nelson were dropped when Collins ruled the evidence against her was "tainted." The official misconduct charges Dunn now faces are related to that case, prosecutors say, along with the alleged workers' compensation fraud.

Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith this afternoon called the criminal charges against Dunn "troubling". It's expected by tonight that she will be officially suspended from the sheriff's department, requiring her to turn over her badge, her weapon and any property belonging to the county. Dunn was investigated by the FBI who, according to Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy, interviewed witnesses, reviewed documents and worked closely with his office. "When the FBI offered their support, we gladly accepted," Levy said in a statement. "The agents who worked hand-in-hand with our Criminal Investigator Henry Lopez and Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher York were thorough, meticulous and professional in their approach to this matter." Levy inherited the investigation when he took office in January 2008. His predecessor, Kevin L. Wright, recused himself from the investigation and the court appointed White Plains attorney Stephen Lewis as a special district attorney in the matter in January 2007. In March 2008, Dunn was removed from the patrol division and placed in the sheriff's communications division. Levy said the FBI became involved in the case 18 months ago. Other controversial animal cruelty cases headed up by Dunn -[0x0f]including the seizure of farm animals from Garrison resident Alexander Saunders and the taking of a 12-year-old horse that Dunn ended being involved in the animal's adoption -[0x0f]did not figure into today's indictment.

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