Deal sought in Shelton bird fighting case with Danbury defendants
By Michael P. Mayko
Updated: 08/10/2009 08:35:39 PM EDT
DERBY -- One by one they appeared before Superior Court Judge Karen Sequino on Monday.
Many kept their heads down during their brief, five-minute appearance as Assistant State's Attorney John Kerwin read the charges.
Most relied on a Portuguese interpreter to translate the proceedings.
All of the 19 men, including eight from Danbury, arrested July 26 for betting on finches trained to fight each other had their cases continued until Sept. 1.
They didn't even have to enter a "not guilty" plea. That's because their lawyers have begun negotiating a deal in which all 19 will seek accelerated rehabilitation at their next court appearance.
It will take about three weeks to determine if they are eligible for the program, which, if successfully completed, would wipe the criminal charges of cruelty to animals and gambling off their records.
To be eligible for accelerated rehabilitation, a defendant must not have a criminal record and must not have applied for the program previously.
But giving them accelerated rehabilitation is not the message Friends of the Animals wants sent.
"They have got to feel it somewhere," said Nancy Rice, the Darien organization's outreach coordinator. "If not psychologically, then financially."
Rice said the organization's position is that each of the 19 men should pay the maximum $5,000 fine. That money would then be turned over to the state and possibly used for caring for the birds seized in the Shelton case or other abused animals.
"It would be too bad if they are able to get away with this," Rice said. "No one wants to see people put in jail, but there has to be some form of punishment to teach people that this type of action will not be accepted in our society."
The state Department of Agriculture took custody of the 150 saffron finches confiscated in Shelton. All of the 19 men waived their right to any ownership of the birds Monday.
"They all agreed not to make any claims to the birds," said Edward Gavin, a Bridgeport lawyer who represents Geraldo Teixeira, 43, of Kearney, N.J.
Gavin said all of the defendants agreed the state could use photographs rather than the actual birds as evidence in the unlikely event that any of the cases proceed to trial.
"We have no objection to the state taking control of the birds," said John Robert Gulash, a Bridgeport lawyer representing Jurames Goulart, 42, of Ripton Road, Shelton. "They could turn them over to a sanctuary, a foster family or new owners."
However, Gulash did ask that Goulart's computer, which contains business records for his J & G landscaping company, be returned as soon as possible.
Goulart is accused of running the bird fights with Sebastian Andrade, 37, and Nonato Raimundo, 51, both of Danbury, on Goulart's property in Shelton and at undisclosed locations in Danbury.
Andrade and Raimundo also had their cases continued.
Goulart ignored repeated questions and requests for comment as he walked several blocks from the courthouse to his car on Elizabeth Street.
Gamblers from Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey would arrive hours before the fights began at 7 a.m. to trade and sell birds, police said, and would party when the fights were over.
In addition to the birds, the police seized cages, as well as food, vitamins and medications for birds.
Elito Goulart, 47, of Bridgeport, Jurames Goulart's brother, told the judge through the interpreter he could not afford a lawyer since he only earns $350 a week. As a result, he applied for a public defender to represent him.
Also appearing in court Monday were Rogerio DeCarvalho, 35; Ricardo Almeida, 29; Getulio Serra, 62; Gilson Goncalves, 31; Agostinho Gondinho, 35 and Massilon DePaula, 32, all Danbury residents.
The remaining defendants live out of state.
To qualify for accelerated rehabilitation: You must not have a criminal record. You must not have applied for the program previously,