ST. CHARLES – A petting zoo owner charged with animal cruelty and neglect of 94 sick and starved animals won a partial victory in court Thursday when a judge ruled in favor of a gag order on comments made outside of court.
Kane County Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood ordered that employees of Kane County Animal Control and the Kane County Sheriff’s Office are to “refrain from making statements to the media in this case.”
Representatives of those offices also are not to comment to the media about the defendant, Elgin resident Stacy Fiebelkorn, regarding her character or criminal record, the results of any examination, physical evidence, witnesses or expected testimony until the conclusion of a trial, so as not to taint a jury pool, Flood ruled.
Although Fiebelkorn’s attorneys had asked that the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office be included in the order, Flood said the state’s attorney’s office already takes steps to make sure comments follow the rules of professional standards.
Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Gaeke argued both in court papers and before Flood that restricting Animal Control or sheriff’s deputies from commenting was a violation of their constitutional rights. She said the state’s attorney’s office was not quoted in any news story regarding the case or the defendant.
Gaeke said sheriff’s and Animal Control employees’ comments to media are factual and do not state a belief in the defendant’s guilt. Fiebelkorn attorney Alexis Costello pointed out contradictory statements attributed to Kane County Animal Control Administrator Robert Sauceda in various publications.
Flood determined that Sauceda’s comments in various publications were made as a representative of the agency, not as a as private citizen.
Since her arrest March 4, Fiebelkorn has given up all of the animals including rabbits, poultry, alpacas, llamas, donkeys, horses, ponies, mini-horses and mini-goats.
Kane County Animal Control impounded the animals from a farm in Hampshire Township and found a dead horse and fetus at a farm on Beith Road near Maple Park. They also found about a dozen dead animals at the Hampshire location and some have died since.
All of the animals have been treated for malnutrition and other medical problems caused by starvation, and nearly all have now been adopted to new homes, Sauceda said in earlier comments to media.
Fiebelkorn’s next court appearance is scheduled May 15. Court papers show she has neither asked for a jury trial, nor waived her right to one.