Felony charges dismissed

Feb. 28, 2013 @ 07:11 PM

Prosecutors volunteered to dismiss a case against a Manson man charged with felony starvation of a horse this week in Vance County Superior Court.

Justice J. Mahoney, 45, benefited from protection afforded by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Mahoney had been free on $2,500 bond since early July, shortly after his arrest in connection with the July 5 discovery of an 8-year-old chestnut-colored gelding quarter horse that was found with its entire body inside a watering trough.

Assistant District Attorney Allison Capps said that Vance County Animal Control officers learned of the horse’s demise from an informant, but they did not obtain a warrant to search the Mahoney property at 1497 County Line Road.

“They had to go onto private property to find it,” Capps said. “They did not have a search warrant or an exception. That requirement extends to animal control officers as well as any other officers.”

The dismissal form filed by Capps ordered the recall of all, if any, outstanding orders for arrest, freeing Mahoney of all consequence in the case as a matter of law.

Capps said that she does not believe the case reflects badly on the vast majority of the work being done by animal control.

“Animal control does a great job with what they do, but in that case we just didn’t have it,” Capps said.

An anonymous tip alerted animal control officers. Alex Hargrove, an animal control officer at the time, had been subpoenaed to testify in the case. He said the horse had died in a trough designed to hold an estimated 100 to 200 gallons of water. He said his impression was the horse suffered neglect before drowning, tethered to a pickup.

Mahoney had been charged with “intentional deprivation of necessary sustenance” over a timeframe from June 25 to July 5, “killing (the) horse that he owned.”

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.