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A native islander faces 17 charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty in a Hilton Head Island municipal courtroom this morning.
The charges against Michael Cohen Jr. -- whose family has farmed on the island for generations -- allege that drinking water was dirty or not available for horses, dogs and pigs on the property and that some animals did not have adequate shelter.
The animals were not being mistreated, according to Cohen's attorney, Roberts Vaux. Rather, they had been recently rescued and were being nursed back to health, Vaux said.
Cohen and his father, Michael Cohen Sr., made similar arguments in 2011, but were found guilty of 12 counts of animal cruetly.
The Cohens' fines were reduced to $55 per count on the condition that they improve the living quarters and health of the animals and provide the court evidence of their work. The Cohens did not provide such proof, according to court records.
A hearing is expected following the trial to address the Cohens' noncompliance with the terms of their previous convictions.
The trial draws on tensions between the Cohen farm and the nearby Villas of Summerfield condominium complex off Spanish Wells Road. Condo residents have complained about the farm's appearance and noise from animals, including horses, roosters, pigs, cows and dogs.
Check back with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette for coverage of the trial, and follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.