Monday, December 29, 2014

Jailed kennel owner charged with assaulting guard

Disgraced ex-kennel operator Derbe Eckhart is in trouble again.

Jailed kennel owner charged with assaulting guard

UPDATE: Eckhart's lawyer Jeff Conrad tells the Associated his client was "in distress" after being deprived of prescription medication for an undisclosed illness which is why he assaulted a prison guard last month. 

 

Disgraced ex-kennel operator Derbe Eckhart is in trouble again.

Only days into his prison sentence for animal cruelty, Eckhart allegedly assaulted a guard at Lehigh County prison who tried to take a packet of medicine from him, according to the Morning Call of Allentown.

On May 18, a jury convicted Eckhart of animal cruelty and Judge Robert Steinberg sentenced him to six to 23 months. Now he's facing assault charges.

On May 22, guards say Eckhart grabbed a packet of medicine and punched a guard who tried to remove it from him. He then pushed and kicked other guards who tried to subdue him, the Call reports.

Eckhart, 42, of Emmaus, is now cooling his heels in solitary confinement, released for one hour a day five days a week and twenty minutes for a shower the other two days.

It's likely his lawyer did not know about the incident mid-day yesterday as he detailed his plan for an appeal to me and complained about the jail sentence.

On the same day the arrest affidavit was filed, I was speaking to Eckhart's attorney Jeff Conrad who told me he had filed papers appealing the conviction and the sentence. Conrad said Eckhart should have been released on bail on the misdemeanor charge.

Conrad said he filed post-sentencing motions on Friday. He said he also planned to challenge the authority of the Pennsylvania SPCA - which conducted the first raid on Eckhart's Almost Heaven kennel in 2008 and charged him with cruelty - over dogs housed in commercial kennels. Conrad said in his appeal in Superior Court he will argue that kennels are agricultural operations and therefore the PSPCA has no enforcement authority over them.

"Agricultural animals are not under the PSPCA and dog kennels are a regular part of agriculture," said Conrad.

Animal welfare experts, who note the PSPCA has been rescuing farm animals - and charging abusive owners for a century - say the animal cruelty statute in Pennsylvania does not differentiate between location of animal or occupation of animal.

In the Oct. 2008 raid that led to the jail term for Eckhart, PSPCA agents found some 800 animals - several hundreds dogs, along with cats, monkeys, birds and horses - on Eckhart's property. Many of the animals suffered from skin disease and injuries and were crammed in filthy cages in every corner of his house and other buildings.

They also found dead dogs in a freezer and dead puppies wrapped like hoagies in a refrigerator.

Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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