MACHIAS, Maine — The trial of a Topsfield woman charged with animal cruelty is expected to get under way Tuesday in Washington County Superior Court. The trial was delayed from November when the woman, Margo Malpher, also known as Margaret Kathleen Nickerson-Malpher, fell in the courtroom and was injured during jury selection.
Malpher reportedly was approaching the judge’s bench and fell off a small step, striking her head on the judge’s bench and suffering a serious laceration.
Malpher was charged four years ago with animal cruelty after 20 dogs and one cat were removed from her North Road home in Topsfield by authorities acting on a tip that the pets’ kennel was filthy.
A month later, Judge John Romei ruled that the animals had been “cruelly treated” and ordered them forfeited to the state. After the state seized the dogs, they were taken to the Bangor Humane Society. It reportedly took six volunteer professional groomers and others nearly three days to shear, bathe and treat the dogs.
Most of the dogs were black miniature poodles, though there also were two Cavalier King Charles spaniel-poodle mixes, one Cavalier King Charles spaniel and one white standard poodle.
After that seizure, Malpher filed a $100 million lawsuit against the governor and others claiming the state stole her dogs. The lawsuit was filed against Gov. John Baldacci, state Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Division Director Norma J. Worley, Attorney General Steven Rowe, 4th District Court Judge John Romei, Justice of the Peace Daniel Lacasse of Calais, Washington and Hancock County District Attorney Michael Povich, First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh of Calais, Maine Department of Agriculture Commissioner Seth Bradstreet III, state Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Division veterinarian Christine Fraser and state animal welfare agent Christina Perry.
In February 2008, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed that the state had the right to seize the animals because they had been cruelly treated.
The state’s highest court also rejected Malpher’s argument that the state acted improperly when it seized the animals and that the law in question under which the dogs were taken was vague.
First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said Malpher would be representing herself in the trial this week.