The same sheriff who led a heavily armed raid on the Saint Francis SPCA animal shelter for rescuing an unlicensed fawn — after which the authorities killed the animal — is now seemingly framing a Kenosha woman who reported his friend, Lisa Edwards. Edwards previously boarded her horses on Beth’s property. Sheriff David Beth of the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin is friends with Edwards, who is accused of neglecting two horses. The woman who first reported the egregious neglect, Maureen Laguardia is now facing harassment charges, trespassing charges and restraining orders — all at the hands of Beth and Edwards. There is no evidence implicating Laguardia in any of those charges.
In early January, Laguardia noticed two neglected horses in a near empty lot with no shelter, despite negative 40 degree wind-chills. She proceeded to file a complaint with the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, which “investigated” the matter and determined that no neglect was taking place. The sheriff’s department hired a veterinarian to examine the animals, who then concluded that “The weather is unseasonably cold during today’s exam. There is snow covering the ground and there is strong winds from the west.” Dr. Lauren Jacobsen then advised the owner to “Offer an area that would provide overhead protection and offer thicker blankets.” Jacobsen continued her report, citing “There are no overhead structures providing protection from rainfall, snowstorm, intense sunshine, etc.” In a police report obtained by Examiner.com, Sergeant Doug Bourdo of the sheriff’s department stated, “Doctor Jacobsen said there are NO concerns regarding the condition neither of the horses nor about the environment.” According to the department’s own photos that we obtained through an Open Records Request, the horses did not have access to any sheltering, aside from a trailer and a barn on the property, which were both locked. In fact, Deputy Olson admitted in his report that the horses “did not have access to the building.”
Laguardia then reported the neglect to the Saint Francis SPCA and others reported it to the Global Conservation Group. The conservation group contacted the sheriff’s department, which simply told them to “call back in the morning.” The sheriff’s department then posted armed deputies at the property to prevent further pictures from being taken. When it became apparent that authorities had no interest in resolving this urgent issue, the Global Conservation Group launched an online petition calling on the sheriff’s department to take action. 24 hours later, the horses had access to overhead sheltering.
However, after receiving negative press attention regarding the department’s inactions, the sheriff’s department started investigating those that first reported the incident as well as the animal rescue organizations that were involved in the campaign. Maureen Laguardia, the woman who first reported the incident told a deputy that she fed the two neglected horses hay or grass that she found on the ground while standing outside of the fence. A sheriff’s deputy then informed the horse owner, Lisa Edwards who then met with Sheriff David Beth for several hours, at which point Edwards filed trespassing and harassment charges as well as a restraining order. Although, Edwards doesn’t actually own the property in which her horses reside. However, Kenosha County Court Commissioner David Berman denied the restraining order requests, stating there was no pattern of harassment. Berman said. “The court finds (Edwards) has failed to meet the burden of proof of harassment.” Laguardia still faces trespassing charges, which are scheduled to be argued by Kenosha County prosecuting attorney Robert Zapf on June 9th. Deputy Olson, who investigated the trespassing allegations, stated that “There were no discernible shoe impressions in the snow.”
Horse owner Lisa Edwards filed an additional report with the sheriff’s department alleging that she was receiving death threats due to her negligent actions. Upon further investigation by Deputy Joshua Lichter, those claims were found to be frivolous. Lichter stated in his police report that “After an investigation, it was determined that no threats were made against her life.”
Edwards also filed a complaint against the St. Francis SPCA, alleging they identified themselves as “the sheriff” and that “they were coming to take my horses.” The SPCA denies those claims. In addition, court records show that Edwards perjured herself in Kenosha County Court when she said under oath that “I work for the United States Department of Agriculture” and that “I get paid from them.”
The Global Conservation Group’s Cruelty Investigation Department found that Edwards falsely stated that she holds several veterinary degrees and licenses and that she operates a “traveling zoo”, according to her website. The group reported the matter to the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office, which then said to refer the concerns to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Upon doing so, the state investigated the case by assigning an attorney and caseworker to verify the complaint. Although the complaint was found to be valid, the state’s Chief Prosecutorial Counsel “decided to close the investigation without further action” citing prosecutorial discretion.
Now that the individuals who first reported the abuse are being charged, the Global Conservation Group has now become the target. The group received an official notice from Sheriff David Beth on a Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department letterhead demanding all of the organization’s privately held files “within ten business days.” Despite the organization being located several hours away from Kenosha, the sheriff unlawfully used department time and resources investigating them. The warrantless demand for records included a list of the organization’s supporters, staff members, volunteers and members of the group’s Cruelty Investigation Department.
The organization obtained legal counsel and then declined to provide the privately held records to the sheriff’s department. The next day, Sergeant Daniel Ruth illegally denied the group’s Open Records Request for the sheriff’s emails relating to the case. The group proceeded to file a complaint against the sheriff’s department with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, who advised the group to refer the matter to the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office — who is helping Sheriff David Beth prosecute the concerned citizens. None-the-less, the Global Conservation Group filed a complaint with the district attorney, who then stated “The result of our review concurs with the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department in that, no mistreatment or malnourishment of the horses is occurring” and dismissed the complaint outright.
Today, the Global Conservation Group says that residents in Kenosha County are reporting animal cruelty directly to them, rather than to authorities, due to concerns of retaliation by the sheriff. The group says the large amount of complaints — that should be referred to and addressed by the sheriff’s department — makes it difficult for them to investigate other urgent matters.
In a separate incident, local residents tell Examiner.com that Sheriff Beth also refused to investigate a complaint about an individual threatening to stab her toddler. Furthermore, a 21-year old man in the custody of the sheriff’s department was permanently paralyzed last December by deputies. The department responded by calling it “an unfortunate accident” despite video evidence showing deputies becoming violent with the man.
As of reporting, no action has been taken against the negligent horse owner. The Global Conservation Group is considering taking legal ramifications against the sheriff’s department and district attorney if the unfounded charges are not dropped.
Originally published on examiner.com by Jordan Turner