Court rejects cat hoarders' appeal of convictions

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The Montana Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a northwestern Montana couple's conviction of aggravated cruelty to animals after 116 cats were found living in filthy, snowbound trailers.

The Daily Inter Lake reports the court announced the decision July 2 involving Edwin and Cheryl Criswell.

The cats were found in December 2010 and a jury the following year found the couple guilty. In October 2011 Cheryl Criswell received a two-year sentence deferred over six years. Edwin Criswell received a two-year suspended sentence but later violated his probation by testing positive for marijuana and methamphetamine. In January he was sentenced to two years in prison.

In September 2006, the Criswells entered Alford pleas to 10 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty in northern Idaho in what officials then called the largest animal hoarding case in state history involving 430 animals.

In the Montana case, the Criswells contended they were wrongly convicted because during the trial Flathead County Deputy Attorney Ken Park called them "professional freeloaders," prejudicing the jury.

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