Animal cruelty trial begins Wednesday

Last-minute details of the animal cruelty case involving Copemish woman Brittannie Wiggins-Pickard were discussed during a final status conference Monday in the Manistee County 19th Circuit Court. A change to the defense's witness list was acknowledged and the juror pool was expanded from 75 to 100 people. (Sean Bradley/News Advocate)

Last-minute details of the animal cruelty case involving Copemish woman Brittannie Wiggins-Pickard were discussed during a final status conference Monday in the Manistee County 19th Circuit Court. A change to the defense’s witness list was acknowledged and the juror pool was expanded from 75 to 100 people. (Sean Bradley/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — A Copemish woman accused of animal cruelty will go to trial starting Wednesday in the Manistee County 19th Circuit Court in Manistee.

Before the trial of Copemish woman Brittannie Wiggins-Pickard, 24, takes place, discussion occurred Monday in the circuit court during a final status conference about the witness list and the number of potential jurors for the jury pool.

Wiggins-Pickard and her husband Darrin Pickard Jr., 25, were arrested in October and each charged with a single felony charge of abandoning/cruelty to 10 or more animals after an investigation conducted by the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office, Homeward Bound Animal Shelter, Pettingale Kennels and a Michigan Department of Natural Resources officer.

As a result of the investigation, 29 animals — 26 dogs and three horses — were seized from the couple’s Copemish home. While under the county’s supervision, one of the dogs was euthanized.

WIGGINS-PICKARD

WIGGINS-PICKARD

The crime is punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine if convicted.

Becky Lederer, the court-appointed defense attorney for Wiggins-Pickard, told the court about her updated witness list for the trial, which is scheduled to occur through Friday.

“Rather than calling Dr. Alissa O’Hagan, I’m asking to call Dr. Diana Novak,” Lederer told judge David Thompson. “They are colleagues from the same office. I’m just asking to call a different doctor than I have originally put on my witness list.”

Doctors O’Hagan and Novak are employees of Northwood Obstetrics and Gynecology in Traverse City.

According to the witness list, additional defense witnesses include Wiggins-Pickard, Pickard Jr. and Dr. Shanti Bhuyan of Northern Michigan Equine Veterinary Services in Kingsley.

The witness list for Jonathan Hauswirth, Manistee County assistant prosecuting attorney, consists of Manistee County Sheriff’s Office employees Sgt. Brian Gutowski, animal control officer and deputy J.R. Nelson and deputy Travis Wheaton.

An additional prosecution witness is Dr. Jeffrey Westheimer, a veterinarian at the Manistee Veterinary Hospital who inspected and cared for the animals that were seized.

The witnesses testifying for the prosecution also testified during Wiggins-Pickard’s preliminary examination in April in the Manistee County 85th District Court.

Thompson stated that a pool of 75 jurors have been selected to fill the trial’s 12-person jury.

However, both Lederer and Hauswirth asked the court for a larger juror pool.

“This particular case has garnered a certain amount of notoriety in the local community,” Hauswirth said. “I would ask for 100 jurors to come in.”

Thompson ultimately agreed, saying he would expand the juror pool to 100 people.

Pickard Jr. pleaded guilty in February in Manistee County’s 85th District Court to one count of abuse and neglect of two to three animals.

In May, he was ordered during a hearing in the district court to pay $19,244 in restitution to the animal control division of Manistee County for the housing and care of the seized animals.

In June, he was arrested by the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office for being in possession of a Doberman Pinscher puppy on May 11 while at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.

As part of his two-year probationary period for pleading guilty in February to the animal cruelty charge, he is not allowed to possess or own any animals.

Pickard Jr. entered a not guilty plea to the probation violation charge during an arraignment on June 28 in the district court.

A contested hearing regarding the probation violation is set for 10:30 a.m. on July 19 in the district court.

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Posted by Sean Bradley

Sean is the city and cops and courts reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the entertainment and Reasons to Celebrate pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3109 or sbradley@pioneergroup.com.

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