On May 15th, Craig Grant signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the prosecutors in his criminal case.
It’s a short document with huge implications.
A deferred prosecution agreement is a form of plea bargaining in which the defendant agrees to meet certain conditions. If the defendant successfully meets those conditions, the prosecutor dismisses the charges. If the defendant does not meet the conditions, prosecution resumes.
This is common in white collar crime, first offenses, and crimes where mental illness or substance abuse may have been a significant factor. For example, a court may require a DUI offender to complete a treatment program and community service. In exchange, jail time and a criminal record are avoided.
Here are the terms — and the deeper significance — of Craig Grant’s deferred prosecution.
Craig Grant’s probationary period will last two years. If he complies with all terms of the agreement, the probationary period may be terminated after one year. Conversely, if he does not cooperate, the period may be extended indefinitely.
He may be prosecuted on felony and misdemeanor charges if any of the following occur:
- He violates the law.
- He is not employed, disabled, retired, or a full-time student.
- He moves and does not notify his case worker.
- He fails to pay $1,790.00 in fees and court costs.
- He fails to complete counseling or refuses to take prescribed medication.
- He fails to comply with the Madison County ordinances regarding the maximum number of animals permitted.
Prosecution may commmence as soon as the State Attorney determines that Grant is in violation of any of these conditions. However, the agreement closes with a clause that would significantly change that nature of that prosecution:
In other words, Craig Grant has formally admitted that he is guilty of multiple misdemeanor and felony animal cruelty charges. Should he violate any condition in this agreement, his prosecution will proceed with the understanding that he has already confessed to committing those crimes.
Caboodle Ranch has attempted to twist the truth by claiming that Craig Grant has not admitted guilt. It is true that he has not entered a formal guilty plea, because he has not yet been tried for his crimes. But by signing this legally binding document, he has unambiguously admitted his guilt in the charges brought against him.
For most people, the terms of the agreement would not be difficult to comply with. Obey the law. Don’t collect animals. See your counselor and take your medication. Don’t skip town.
It’s a virtual “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
But for a hoarder currently under court orders not to possess any live animal, these simple requirements present serious challenges.
Recently, Craig Grant was found to be in possession of a sick possum. He refused to provide the possum with care or to turn it over to a licensed professional as required by state law. The ailing animal was ultimately confiscated by Florida’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Had this taken place after the deferred prosecution agreement was signed, he would be in violation of the agreement and subject to full and immediate prosecution.
Additionally, the difficult nature of hoarding coupled with Grant’s history of personal neglect and denial could make psychiatric counseling especially problematic. If he refuses prescribed treatment or fails to complete counseling — both very common occurrences when dealing with mental illness — he risks renewed prosecution.
The events of the next 12 months will give an indication of how this story will end. If Craig Grant cannot conquer his impulses, he faces jail and crippling penalties. If he can control his compulsion to hoard animals for one year, if he complies with the law and meets the terms of the agreement, he will go free… but that doesn’t mean he’s free to begin hoarding again.
Regardless of the outcome of the agreement, Caboodle Ranch is finished. The horrors that occurred on those seven acres of land have been exposed; the careless and potentially criminal misuse of nonprofit funds has been documented. The donations that brought in half a million dollars over two year period have dried up. The shadow of the IRS will still be looming overhead for years to come, and when that weight comes crashing down on the directors of Caboodle Ranch, there will be no deferred prosecution. The IRS is relentless and remorseless.
If the law fails us, if the drive to hoard animals overpowers common sense and Craig Grant attempts to resume his abuse in another state, we will be there to stop it, with every tool at our disposal. Never again will he be permitted to cause the suffering and anguish he inflicted on those cats.
Yet all of this fades into insignificance in light of the real victory: the victims of Caboodle Ranch have been saved.
Right now, a Caboodle Ranch survivor is curled up on the lap of a little girl, purring like a steam engine. He is the center of that little girl’s world, and he doesn’t compete with hundreds of other cats for a moment of her affection.
He is warm, he is loved. He is happy.
He is safe from coyotes and snakebite and death on the dirt roads of Caboodle Ranch. The eye he lost to an untreated infection no longer pains him. If he gets sick again, a professional veterinarian will tend his illness with compassion and care. He will not be thrown into an overcrowded trailer filled with the stench of sickness and death and decay, surrounded by the wheezes and gasps of cats choking out their last breaths.
When he does pass from this world, as we all must, it will not be alone and in agony. His bones will not litter Caboodle Ranch, ignored and forgotten as they bleach in the Florida sun. He will go gently. His family will mourn him, and he will leave this world having known the happiness of a true home.
That is our quiet victory, a triumph multiplied more than 700 times. We celebrate that success.