A former WCAX News employee found himself on the wrong side of the news story. George Wilson, 63, and his wife, Ann Gilbreth, 64, are charged with one count each of animal cruelty after prosecutors say their animals were living in deplorable conditions on the couple's Shelburne farm.
"They've been held in the dark, not being able to walk, without adequate food or water or medical care for the last six or seven years. If that's not cruelty, I don't know what is," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.
Wilson was a reporter and anchor at Channel 3 for decades. He left the station in 2006. Tuesday, he said it felt funny to be sitting in the defendant's seat.
Wilson and Gilbreth pleaded not guilty and told the media the entire situation has been misrepresented.
"I think it was way, way, way, way, way, way overblown," Wilson said.
Police and state officials raided the property off Irish Hill Road Jan. 15. They say they seized Wilson's firearms after he allegedly threatened police.
"Mr. Wilson made statements that somebody was going to get hurt and started to make a B-line essentially to the rifle and was intercepted by members of the Shelburne police department," Donovan said.
Police say while on the farm, they found a three horses living in stalls piled three feet high with manure, their untrimmed hooves were curling and all needed medical attention. Police say they found bags of horse bones and one dead bull. Six more were deemed to be in poor health, corralled atop six feet of manure.
"Obviously numerous animals from bulls to horses have died on the property. And we just can't sit by and let animals suffer," Donovan said.
Prosecutors say complaints about the farm go back 20 years and they are investigating why legal action was never taken. A neighbor told us he was shocked to learn the couple even had livestock. Prosecutors say no one has seen animals on the property in years.
The couple handed the horses over to the Humane Society and Spring Hill Horse Rescue and sold the bulls to an Addison County slaughterhouse. But they deny any wrongdoing.
Reporter Jennifer Reading: Do you think that your animals were abused or neglected in any way?
George Wilson: Absolutely not.
Back at the barn and off camera, Wilson told WCAX News that he's devastated by what's happened. He claims that he and his wife were working on a decade-long project into selective breeding. He says that this case has ruined that research.
"It's a long story," Wilson said. "It's a complicated story. We will tell it and we will keep you guys informed."
If convicted, Wilson and Gilbreth both face up to one year in prison. They're not allowed purchase, possess or own any large domestic animals in the meantime.
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