Tina Fay says she was railroaded, and she’s still trying to prove it.

  • FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2017 file photo, Christina Fay of Wolfeboro attends District Court at the Carroll County Superior Courthouse in Ossipee, N.H. An attorney for Fay, convicted of 10 counts of animal cruelty after dozens of her Great Danes were found sick and living in filthy conditions in her home, is scheduled to argue her appeal before the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. (Elizabeth Frantz/The Concord Monitor via AP, File) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor columnist
Published: 7/12/2020 7:26:25 PM

Tina Fay’s lawyer knows how you feel about his client.

He knows the pictures of caged Great Danes and sick Great Danes and too many Great Danes, photographed at her former Wolfeboro mansion three years ago, broke your heart. He knows a lot of you are thankful for the Humane Society of the United States, the organization that swooped in with police in what evolved into a national story.

But he also says you’ve been duped into siding with the authorities on this one, and that’s why he filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of Fay last month in Washington, D.C., seeking $25 million for the unfair treatment he says she’s received since the story broke in June of 2017.

Marshall Pinkus claims a clever and calculating non-profit organization used the raid to gather material – some of which, the suit claims, was doctored to elicit sympathy – and promote itself for fundraising purposes, trampling on Fay’s civil rights in the process.

“The Humane Society of the United States went into her home and they had no right to be there,” Pinkus said by phone. “They have no police powers and they went in there without her consent.”

He continued: “They acted as though they were law enforcement, and people think they have a federal relationship. That’s happened many, many times. The HSUS has a certain agenda. They don’t like breeders of dogs, of thoroughbreds, of anything.”

The suit also targets the town of Wolfeboro, including its police department, and the HSUS’s attorney, but make no mistake, the passion here is directed toward the HSUS itself. Fay’s attorneys have said from the start that the organization was illegally incorporated into the investigation and raid.

They said it during Fay’s first trial, in front of a judge in 2017, when she was convicted on 10 counts of animal cruelty and negligence but was spared jail time. They said it during Fay’s losing appeal in front of a jury the next year.

And they said it during an appeal in front of the New Hampshire Supreme Court last February, when Concord lawyer Ted Lothstein made his case that evidence found in Fay’s home should have been deemed inadmissible from the start.

The court has yet to decide that one, which will determine if Fay must pay her $1.4 million fine and forfeit all her dogs.

Lothstein told the justices, “The state makes a surprising argument that what happened here is okay. That it is okay for the police to bring a private advocacy organization into a private home under the auspices of a search warrant that did not expressly authorize that, and then have that organization off-set its cost.”

Lothstein concluded by saying the imagery and evidence collected at Fay’s home “amounts to a public social media propaganda campaign for the purpose of enriching the advocacy organization and publicizing its mission.”

If Fay triumphs there, the prosecution's evidentiary well would run dry. As Pinkus said, “The Supreme Court of New Hampshire would be saying that they entered on her property illegally and everything that took place on that day cannot be used in a retrial. The state would have no evidence.”

The civil matter is another matter. Fay wants money and a somewhat polished reputation. She wants to send a message to the HSUS, and it has nothing to do with grabbing dinner.

Pinkus, who’s based in Indiana, was recommended to Fay by her legal team, and the case will be heard, at a date to be determined, in Washington, D.C., because that’s where the HSUS is headquartered.

And the defense team, according to Pinkus and his filing, will address other matters. Those that add negative layers of paint to a canvas already steeped in misrepresentation.

The photos add an astonishing element here. Not because they show sad dogs living with disease in filthy conditions.

Rather, Pinkus maintains, they show mud, tracked into the house after a rainstorm the night before. Not dog feces, as was stated in court. He says Fay’s dogs, 74 in all, were forced to remain inside for 14 hours after the bust, without food, water or a chance to do their duty.

When asked if that meant the dogs relieved themselves inside, Pinkus asked, “Why wouldn’t they?”

When asked if Fay’s conviction and her failed appeal should be the most significant facts here, not chicanery against Fay, Pinkus said pretrial publicity on the internet made it impossible for his client to get a fair trial. References to Cruella de Vill in newspapers hardly aided her cause.

“It’s difficult for Tina to get a fair trial,” Pinkus said. “With social media and the publicity, people jumped on the bandwagon without knowing the facts.”

And those facts, Pinkus states, should change minds.

He downplayed often-heard criticism questioning the wisdom of caring for 75 dogs, each taller than a colt, all at once. He says Fay had become an expert breeder and caretaker, and she had a staff of three, enough to provide proper care.

One helper, though, was pregnant and left, and another took a higher-paying job, leaving Fay shorthanded, without time to hire replacements before the cops came in with guns out.

He says Fay suffered a knee injury and needed crutches, and that should factor into the conditions police and the HSUS found.

He says seven dogs died “while in HSUS’s possession, direction and control,” according to the court filing. He says two dogs died from bloating, caused by drinking too much water, and he says some puppies, born after moving to a nearby shelter, have disappeared. 

He says his client should not have to pay the $1.4 million fine she still owes. He says her name should be cleared.

Not smeared. That’s what he says the Humane Society is doing to Fay.

“The HSUS has been sued a lot,” Pinkus said. “Most of the cases have been settled. The HSUS has had to pay out a ton of money.”

Just wait, doubters.

You’ll see.

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