A judge has delayed a hearing to determine whether Marion County can officially take legal custody of Doodle, a miniature donkey belonging to Carlos Romero, with whom Romero is accused of engaging in sex acts. Doodle is currently being held at the County animal shelter and the County wants to put her up for adoption. The custody hearing has been delayed to November 11.
Romero, 31, claims that the County took custody of Doodle under false pretenses. He contends the donkey was in no danger on August 15, when he was discovered in a “sexually compromising position” by the owner of the barn where he rents a space for Doodle. Romero characterized his actions as “husbandry”–as what any farmer might do in caring for livestock.
Dana Olesky Taylor, Senior Assistant County Attorney, told the court that the primary reason the County wanted to postpone the case was to avoid having Romero incriminate himself during the custody hearing while his criminal case is pending , Ocala.com reports.
Romero is charged with having sexual activity with an animal, which is a first-degree misdemeanor. On October 9 he was offered a plea deal from the State Attorney’s Office.
The terms of the offer included a year of probation, a $200 fine, a psychosexual evaluation and possible treatment, STD testing, no contact with children in a school setting, no ownership or possession of any mammals, and revocation of his license to work in horse racing.
Because he is an exercise rider and groomer in the horse racing industry Romero claimed that accepting these restrictions and having his license revoked would cause him to be without work, and he asked for a jury trial.
On October 24 Romero was appointed a public defender to handle his case after Marion County Circuit Judge Steven Rogers deemed him indigent. Romero said in court that his work was seasonal and that he didn’t have a job and any other assets besides a parcel of land and an old pickup.
Romero told reporter Vishal Persud that his previous job was temporary and ended before his last hearing earlier this month.
Romero was smiling when he left the courtroom and said he was glad to have an attorney handling his case. “At least I’m not pro se anymore,” he said. “The process and discovery and everything, it’s just way over my head.”
Romero has made it clear he is intent on regaining custody of Doodle. When first denied a public defender, Romero had posted an open plea on Facebook for an attorney willing to take his case and said he will not give up because he still longs for Doodle.
“I just wish this case was over today so I could have her back,” he said. Romero said there was no evidence of pain and suffering done to the miniature donkey. When he was arrested last month, he offered a vigorous defense of the right to have sex with animals, telling detectives that, “Florida is a backwards state and people frown on zoophilia here.”
Carlos Romero has competence and psychological evaluations set for Thursday and a tentative trial date scheduled for Dec. 17, 2012.
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