No plea deal in Stanislaus County animal cruelty case

09/04/2014 3:40 PM

09/04/2014 4:55 PM

There was no plea deal Thursday, so a preliminary hearing will start later this month in a criminal case of a Stanislaus County egg farm where authorities found an estimated 50,000 hens without feed two years ago. More than 40,000 hens died.

Defendants Andy Yi Keunh Cheung and Lien Tuong Diep have been charged with one felony count of animal cruelty each. Their attorneys appeared in court on their behalf Thursday morning.

In May, Deputy Public Defender Marlon Simon, who represents Diep, told the judge they were hopeful a resolution in the case could be reached with prosecutors by this week.

Instead, Martha Carlton-Magaña, Cheung’s defense attorney, told the judge Thursday that the preliminary hearing is ready to proceed as scheduled Sept. 23.

The preliminary hearing is estimated to last one day. At the hearing’s conclusion, Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff will decide whether there is enough evidence for the defendants to stand trial.

Cheung was the owner of A&L Poultry on South Carpenter Road about a half-mile south of Fulkerth Road, west of Turlock. Public records indicate Diep operated Lucky Transportation Inc., a Ceres-based hauling company for wholesale poultry products.

Animal rights groups said they rescued 4,460 hens that survived, but about 460 of them died afterward because they were too weak or sick. Of the 40,000-plus hens that died, about a third starved, and the rest were euthanized because of their poor condition, according to the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency.

At the time, authorities estimated the birds had not been fed for two weeks. The Animal Services Agency discovered the unfed hens in February 2012 after it received a complaint about the farm.

Carlton-Magaña has said her client did nothing criminal and was practicing within the standards and practices set by the industry. An animal rights activist had made arrangements with A&L Poultry to pick up hens that were intended to be euthanized, according to the defense attorney. But she says the activist didn’t pick up the hens.

Two weeks ago, three animal rights groups settled their civil lawsuit against Cheung and Diep. The defendants agreed to pay $5,000 to the plaintiffs, which helped rescue survivors.

Cheung also agreed not to work with animals in the future, and Diep agreed to limit her work to briefly transporting laying hens for slaughter. The civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary in Stockton; Animal Place, based in Grass Valley; and Farm Sanctuary, which is based in New York state and has a farm in Glenn County, north of Sacramento.

Cheung and Diep remain free on their own recognizance as they await their preliminary hearing.

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