MU students negotiate animal abuse hearing

Thursday, March 17, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:21 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A plea agreement is being negotiated between the district attorney’s office and defense lawyers for two MU students charged with animal abuse, prosecuting attorney Connie Sullivan said.

“We’re negotiating whether or not we’re going to trial,” Sullivan said.

A preliminary hearing was postponed Tuesday at the request of defense attorney Pat Eng, Sullivan said. Eng represents both of the accused.

Zachary W. Famuliner and Adam Thomas, both 20, face charges of animal abuse after a fraternity contest was interrupted by the police on the night of Nov. 19. Columbia police were called to the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house at 602 S. College Ave., about a noise complaint.

Police officers said they found members of the fraternity gathered around a truck, looking into a 60-gallon barrel containing 40 possums, 20 of them dead, and two dead raccoons.

Police said fraternity members had created a contest in which points were awarded for the number of opossums collected, giving one point for dead opossums and two for live ones.

Famuliner, the owner of the truck, was arrested by the Columbia Police Department and faces two counts of animal abuse and one count of possessing wildlife illegally. Thomas was arrested by the Department of Conservation and faces the same charges.

Each charge is a class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible fine of $1,000 and a year in jail. Sullivan said that together, the possible punishment for the crimes is three years in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Famuliner and Thomas waived arraignment and pleaded not guilty on Nov. 30. The hearing has been repeatedly postponed.

Also at issue is a request by the defense for a change of venue. The defense filed the motion based on the amount of publicity the case has received, Sullivan said. The motion does not request a specific location, only asking that the case be moved out of Boone County.

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