Editor's note: After Cohen passed bi-weekly inspections over a three-month period, the town of Hilton Head's municipal court dropped 14 of the 17 charges on June 28, 2013 . "The defendant has made vast improvements above and beyond...and will continue to improve the living quaters [sic] of all the animals," court records said. The remaining three charges were dropped in December 16, 2015. Records did not indicate why these particular charges were dropped later than the others.
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.
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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.