Judge denies motions to suppress evidence in Napier case

MANATEE -- A judge denied motions Wednesday to suppress evidence obtained by search warrant in the case against two owners of an East Manatee County animal shelter on charges of fraud and animal cruelty.

Napier's Log Cabin Horse and Animal Sanctuary was raided Feb. 5 by a multi-agency law enforcement effort led by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. The raid resulted in confiscation of about 300 animals found in deplorable conditions and the discovery of the remains of 20 animals.

Owners Alan and Sheree Napier were arrested April 7, and again June 2, on charges stemming from the sheriff's office investigation.

Alan Napier faces one count of scheming to defraud $50,000, three counts of soliciting to defraud and 15 counts of animal cruelty.

Sheree Napier faces 14 counts of animal cruelty, one count of scheming to defraud $50,000 and one count of soliciting to defraud.

Defense attorneys for the couple presented testimony Tuesday and argued Wednesday motions to suppress evidence obtained through the warrant. The defense argued there was insufficient evidence to warrant probable cause and Sgt. Rob Hendrickson misled and misrepresented the facts on the search warrant.

Circuit Judge Charles Roberts disagreed.

"Sgt. Hendrickson was not reckless and did not mislead, as it turns out, me," Roberts said noting he signed the search warrant. "I will agree with everyone here that the affidavit was not written with the kind of detail that was ideal, but looking carefully at the language I will conclude there was no misleading or recklessness. There is sufficient evidence for probable cause."

Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Joynt-Sanchez, attorney for Sheree Napier, had argued the warrant was lacking.

"The court was given no concrete examples that a crime was being committed at all," Joynt-Sanchez said. "It doesn't reference that these animals were in the care of Alan and Sheree Napier."

Assistant State Attorney Garrett Franzen said the details omitted would have only made probable cause greater for the warrant.

"None of these things rise to the level of an intentional or reckless omission or misrepresentation," Franzen said. "Bad drafting does not equal bad faith."

Roberts also denied a motion Wednesday to suppress evidence on claims by the defense the warrant was too broad or general.

On Tuesday, a motion to suppress was granted regarding evidence from eight additional horses seized at two other Napier properties in the days following the raid. The judge denied the part of the motion to suppress evidence obtained from excavation of a shallow grave containing animal remains.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.