Cat owners contest charges

Posted 9/7/10

Taylor, 79, and Mimi Nesbit, 63, each face 17 counts of cruelty, relating to 17 cats in poor health that were seized from the Lane 11 residence. Seven of those animals ultimately were euthanized.

Miki Nesbit, 63, faces one count relating to …

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Cat owners contest charges


Three rural Powell residents charged in connection with the seizure of 157 cats from their home last week have pleaded not guilty to charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty.Appearing in Powell's Circuit Courtroom on Friday, Clifton Taylor, his wife Maurielena “Mimi” Nesbit, and her twin sister, Michelle “Miki” Nesbit, denied the 35 criminal counts against them.

Taylor, 79, and Mimi Nesbit, 63, each face 17 counts of cruelty, relating to 17 cats in poor health that were seized from the Lane 11 residence. Seven of those animals ultimately were euthanized.

Miki Nesbit, 63, faces one count relating to another cat in poor condition that she reportedly owned.

Each count carries penalties of up to six months in jail and $750 in fines.

Officials, including a large team from the Humane Society of the United States, spent much of Aug. 26 capturing and removing cats from the home south of Powell. Responders described unsanitary conditions inside, including cat feces covering floors, counters and other surfaces. Those who removed cats from the home wore masks because of the high levels of ammonia.

A report from law enforcement filed in the case indicates Mimi Nesbit had been taking in the cats.

Speaking separately to each individual on Friday, Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters explained their rights, the legal process and the charges. The judge spoke about the state's animal cruelty law, which defines the crime as when an individual “unnecessarily fails” to provide their animal with food, drink, protection or appropriate medical care.

When asked if he had any questions about the charges, Taylor asked about their appropriateness.

“The only question I have is they were getting proper food, drink and protection. I know because I was paying for the food,” Taylor said, before Waters cut him off.

“This is not something to discuss with me right now because whatever you say can be used against you in future proceedings,” Waters said, reminding Taylor of his right to remain silent.

When initially asked if she understood her rights, Miki Nesbit began defending herself.

“I plead not guilty and...” she said, before Waters cut her off.

“That's not my question,” the judge said, saying he would take her plea later.

When Waters asked her about her employment situation, Miki Nesbit answered and then talked about her room in the home's basement.

“I had four cats...” she started.

“Whoa, whoa, that's not the question,” interrupted Waters. “Remember, you have the right to remain silent.”

Taylor said he was having a difficult time hearing the proceedings, and he expressed confusion about the process multiple times.

Initially, he indicated he would represent himself.

“It was suggested I just rely on the court,” Taylor said.

Judge Waters asked who told Taylor that and said “it's a bad idea” not to visit with a lawyer. He warned Taylor that he was facing eight and a half years of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines and restitution if convicted on all 17 counts.

Taylor ultimately decided, as did the Nesbits, that he would like to be represented by a court-appointed attorney.

Each will be represented by a different public defender, who represent those without the means to hire a private attorney.

Taylor said he receives money from Social Security, a small amount from auto repair and a Certificate of Deposit.

“It's all I've got left,” Taylor said.

Mimi and Miki Nesbit each said they currently have no jobs and no money.

“My husband, Clifton Taylor, has been handling that,” Mimi Nesbit said when the judge asked how she's provided for.

Taylor and the Nesbit sisters sat on different sides of the courtroom prior to the start of the hearing.

Each was released on a $2,500 personal recognizance/signature bond.

As part of their bond conditions, none of three residents may own or possess animals.

“I want to be perfectly clear that you are not to have any animals or pet cats within that residence,” Waters said.

If cats are found in the home while the case is pending, Waters said the three residents could be arrested and jailed until the case is adjudicated.

Deputy Park County Attorney Tim Blatt said it was his understanding that an additional five to seven cats returned to the residence after the Aug. 26 seizure of the 157 animals. Miki Nesbit said they had been confined to a room in the home.

Waters noted that having those cats inside the residence would be a violation of the residents' newly-instated bond conditions.

“I would recommend you contact the sheriff's office and say, ‘Come and get these things,'” said Waters.

The residents made arrangements with a sheriff's deputy after the hearing to have the cats removed and relinquished to the county. One cat belonging to Taylor was going to be taken in by a family member.

At Blatt's recommendation, Waters did allow Taylor to keep his roughly 30 sheep, and four peacocks and two geese that wander the property. Blatt said there were no issues with the condition of those animals.

By the end of this week, all of the cats will likely have been turned over to county ownership. All but 14 of the animals were turned over to the county following the Aug. 26 seizure.

As of Friday's hearing, Taylor had not relinquished ownership of six of the 157 cats; he told the Tribune last week that some of the cats were special to him because they had been owned by he and his late first wife.

However, in order to keep the cats, Taylor would have to post a $5,937 bond to cover the care of the cats since they were seized and for the six cats' boarding over the next 90 days.

“If you cannot post that bond ... then your right to ownership of these animals will be lost,” Waters said.

“I'm going to have to relinquish them,” Taylor said. Blatt said he would work with Taylor's attorney on the paperwork next week.

Mimi and Miki Nesbit initially retained ownership of four cats each. On Thursday, however, the sisters gave up those eight cats, too.

Because they no longer claimed ownership of any of the cats, Waters did not require the Nesbits to post a cost of care bond as Blatt had requested. However, Waters said prosecutors could seek that sum as restitution if the Nesbits are convicted.