Slap on the wrist for carriage driver accused of animal cruelty
Saverio Colarusso, a New York City carriage driver who was charged nearly a year ago with animal cruelty in connection with a horse named Blondie, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to disorderly conduct. As part of a plea agreement with the district attorney's office and sanctioned by a judge, Colarusso was allowed to plead to the lesser charge, which carries a five day community service obligation and a small fine. If he had been convicted of the more serious charge, he could have faced a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.
A judge allowed Colarusso on Wednesday to leave the the courtroom through a back door to avoid encounters with animal activists who have attended his every court appearance. A prosecutor, Shilpa Kalra, told the judge the plea deal was offered because Colarusso "does not have a criminal history, the horse had mismatched hind feet which can contribute to the horse's unusual gait beyond that which can be attributed to thrush, [and] the horse was in otherwise very good condition." Despite Kalra's comments in court, Colarusso has a checkered past that includes a charge of drinking while operating a carriage and fines for time-and-place violations, failure to turn on carriage lamps after dark, and failure to keep a daily log, as The New York Times reported after his arrest on the animal cruelty charge.
In the same courtroom where his case had been continued numerous times before and he had declined repeatedly to accept the plea agreement, Colarusso and his lawyer lingered afterward. Sources have said that an assistant district attorney's office had been assisting Colarusso-giving him special treatment-by bringing him into an office after his court appearances for temporary refuge, shielding him from activists and news media. After an appearance last summer, Colarusso was sneaked out of the courthouse, a move that is virtually unprecedented, even among celebrities. Also highly unusual is that he was taken on several occasions directly from the courtroom upstairs to the District Attorney's office, as he seen doing on Wednesday.
The misdemeanor animal cruelty charge against Colarusso came after Blondie was observed by NYPD Officer Brian Coll to be in visible pain and limping from injury to her rear left leg. He had been working with a limp for four days and, despite the injury, Colarusso said he had worked Blondie that day for five hours already, according to the criminal complaint.
Saverio Colarusso (far left) after entering a plea agreement.