Gag order placed in animal neglect case
Kane County Animal Control and sheriff's department workers are now prohibited from discussing details of a case in which an Elgin woman has been charged with animal cruelty and neglect.
Kane County Circuit Court Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood Thursday granted a request by an attorney for defendant Stacy Fiebelkorn, 34, to prohibit workers, including Animal Control Director Robert Sauceda, from making statements outside of court proceedings regarding:
• The character, credibility, reputation or criminal record of parties on the case;
• Expected testimony and witnesses;
• Results of any tests of any animals in the case;
• Any identifying or revealing the nature of any evidence that might be presented at trial.
Flood said she did so to preserve Fiebelkorn's right to a fair trial, and that the order will stand until the trial is through, or until Fiebelkorn waives her right to a trial by jury. Fiebelkorn has not indicated her trial preference.
"Quotes by Mr. Sauceda give me concern ... I do believe he is speaking on behalf of an agency, and not as a private citizen," Flood said after reviewing 46 media reports attached to the request.
Flood specifically cited articles from the Daily Herald, including a March 6 article in which Sauceda said he "broke down Monday night when I got home" after seeing the conditions of Fiebelkorn's animals on a Hampshire farm, and a March 8 article in which he said "it's a mess," after finding two dead goats in a 12-inch pile of hay and feces.
Defense attorney Jamie Wombacher had argued in her written request that their statements "contain factual misstatements and assumptions that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation" of Fiebelkorn.
Authorities documented 10 dead animals on that farm, and two on a farm she had used in Maple Park. Dozens of other animals on the Hampshire farm did not have adequate food; their water supplies were frozen; hoofs were overgrown; and some had medical problems, including abscesses and hernias, according to testimony given during a hearing in March about whether the animals should be immediately forfeited.
Fiebelkorn's next court date is 9 a.m. May 15.