Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.
Caroline farrier sent to jail for animal cruelty
A Caroline County farrier who was given the county’s longest sentence for animal cruelty is now serving time in prison.
Micheal A. Wilkerson Sr., 48, was sentenced to 14 months in jail in February 2010 for seven counts of animal cruelty against horses, but has remained out on bond because he appealed the decision several times. He was convicted in December 2009.
Those appeals were denied twice by the Court of Appeals of Virginia and refused twice by the Supreme Court of Virginia. The most recent refusal by the Supreme Court was on Sept. 23.
Now that all of his appeal options are out, Judge Joseph J. Ellis told Wilkerson yesterday afternoon that it was time for him to go to jail.
Defense Attorney John LaFratta asked if Wilkerson could be allowed to participate in the work release program, but Ellis said no.
The case began in January 2008 when Animal Control officers said they warned Wilkerson that he needed to do a better job of feeding and caring for nine of his horses. They returned about two weeks later and seized five of the horses because they didn’t see any improvement, but four of the horses were missing.
Wilkerson was convicted in February 2008 of four counts of cruelty to the seized horses. He was not convicted of cruelty against the fifth horse because he did not own the horse for more than six months.
He appealed that decision and, after several postponements, Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer added more charges of animal cruelty after the four missing horses were discovered, in the same condition, with a friend of Wilkerson’s in Lunenburg County.
Spencer argued during the sentencing hearing that Wilkerson didn’t have the resources to properly care for his horses during the winter months when there was no grass to feed on, so he fed them the bare minimum to keep them alive until the summer.
A veterinarian testified during the trial in December 2009 that one of the horses was so starved that its bone-marrow fat content, which is usually 60 to 90 percent, was less than two percent.
“This was an intentional near-starvation of horses for months at a time,” Spencer said at the trial. “It’s time for him to answer to what he has done. It was horrible cruelty.”
Defense attorney John LaFratta told the judge that Wilkerson fell on hard times and shouldn’t receive jail time.
“He fell short of what is required when you take an animal into care, but I don’t think that he did anything intentionally to hurt these horses,” LaFratta said.
Judge Horace A. Revercomb III sentenced Wilkerson in February 2010 to seven years in prison with all but 14 months suspended. He also will have to pay $3,500 in fines and $4,500 in restitution for veterinary bills and is prohibited from possessing any agricultural animals.
Wilkerson was also convicted of cruelty to 12 horses in 1996.
***REPORTER NOTE: The county included the $4,500 fine in its current budget to be paid to the United States Equine Rescue League, who helped to care for the horses after they were seized. So technically, Wilkerson will be reimbursing taxpayers because they have paid that bill.***