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After Six Years, Maria Borell Pleads Not Guilty To Animal Cruelty Charges

Infamous Local Animal Cruelty Case Returns To Docket

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

One of Mercer County’s most notorious animal cruelty cases may finally be moving towards resolution after more than six years.

Last Monday in Mercer District Court, Maria Borell pleaded not guilty to 43 charges of 2nd degree cruelty to animals dating back to 2016.

In June 2016, officials discovered 43 severely neglected horses which were said to belong to Maria Borell and her father, Charles Borell, on a farm on Martin Lane.

As part of a plea agreement, Charles Borell entered an Alford plea—a guilty plea where a defendant asserts their innocence but admits the evidence would lead to conviction—to nine counts of 2nd degree animal cruelty in September of that year and was sentenced to two years.

Law enforcement were unable to serve warrants on Maria Borell, who is now being represented by criminal defense attorney Russell Baldani of the Baldani Law Group in Lexington. Baldani appeared on Borell’s behalf last week via video conferencing.

Baldani said Borell has not lived in Kentucky since December 2015. He said he had been in discussion with the prosecutor, Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean, about resolving the case. In May, Baldani said his client gave herself up.

“She wants to address the allegations and clear her name,” Baldani said.

Maria Borell trained the 2015 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Runhappy but was fired the day after the colt won that year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, according to media reports. The next year, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission placed a stop on Borell’s trainers license because of a financial responsibility issue. That same year, Borell was also unable to participate in racing in New York because the New York State Gaming Commission said she had “failed to comply with licensing requirements,” according to the Paulick Report.

Baldani said his client is not the person media reports have made her out to be.

“It’s hard for me to imagine anyone who loves animals more than Maria,” he said. “It’s completely beyond her character to allow an animal to be mistreated or neglected.”

Borell’s bond has been set at $7,500. A pretrial conference has been scheduled for Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. at the Mercer County Judicial Center. It was not clear if Borell will have to appear in court at that time.

Second degree animal cruelty is a class A misdemeanor and each count is punishable by up to 12 months in jail.

The case—and the ensuing struggle to care for the horses—led Kentucky to enact the Borell law in 2017, allowing courts to order people convicted of animal cruelty to pay restitution for the upkeep of neglected horses and terminate their ownership of the animals.

Two weeks ago, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office discovered two dogs who had been abandoned after their owners, Michael and Katrina Cain, moved to Liberty. Michael Cain is scheduled to appear in Mercer County District Court on Monday, June 27.

Cain has been charged with four counts of 2nd degree cruelty to animals.

The dogs were being treated at Commonwealth Animal Hospital but are now in foster care.

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