Ernie Paragallo, 52 posted $10,000 bail on Thursday morning and was released from the Greene County Jail pending his appeal. Paragallo has been in jail since May 18 and had been sentenced to two years and a $33,000 fine on 33 counts of animal cruelty.
In April, 2009 state police and animal cruelty investigators raided Center Brook Farm in Coxsackie, New York following the discovery of several starving and malnourished thoroughbred horses purchased by a New York killpen owner, Don Nickerson. A few of the horses had already died. A local Pennsylvania horse rescue, Another Chance 4 Horses, along with Lisa Leogrande were able to purchase some of the horses and supplied authorities with information the starving horses belonged to Paragallo. The horses were severely neglected, underweight, full of parasites, with rain rot and open wounds.. Christy Sheidy, co-founder of the horse rescue rehabilitated four of the horses. They were The Only Word, Coconut Martini, Finely Decorated and Jennifer. All of the horses except for Jennifer have since been adopted.
Paragallo has denied any wrongdoing and stated to his knowledge all of the horses were being properly cared for and fed. Part of his appeal is based on the testimony of two veterinarians who testified initially that healthy thoroughbreds weigh between 1500 to 1600 pounds. They then changed their testimony to the weights of 1000 to 1200 pounds. Dr. Jerry Blinski testified weight tapes are not accurate when horses are severely malnourished. Paragallo thinks that may have influenced his case.
At his sentencing, Greene County Court Judge, who made the decision to convict Paragallo on the 33 counts of animal cruelty stated, “Mr. Paragallo, your moral compass is out of kilter and points you in improper directions. Your sense of integrity, your code of conduct, your perception of right and wrong was perhaps formed by your days on either mean streets and/or Wall Street.”
Paragallo was a former investment banker with Goldman Sachs and Deutsch Bank.
The New York Racing and Wagering Board is scheduled to meet on June 24 for a hearing on what action will be taken against Paragallo. Penalties could range from $5000 for each charge. There have been allegations that Paragallo knowingly raced horses whose owners were not properly licensed.
When leaving the Greene County Jail, a reporter from Fox 23 News quoted Paragallo as stating, ” Were there some horses that were skinny? Yes, absolutely …but you’ll find that in any major farm.”