Protest held over upcoming court date for Mineola couple accused of animal cruelty

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Protestors gathered outside a county courthouse Sunday over a Thursday court hearing for a Mineola couple accused of killing two dogs and her beating one. (Photo by Tom McCarthy)

A Mineola couple who were arrested for allegedly killing two dogs and beating a third is due back in criminal court Thursday, the district attorney’s office said.

Protestors from activist organization Puppy Mill Free Long Island gathered outside a Nassau County courthouse in Mineola Sunday to protest Ellie and Jessica Knoller in advance of the court hearing and what they predict will be a light sentence if the couple is convicted.

“I have to believe this is one of the most heinous animal cruelty acts that I have heard,” animal activist Keri Michel said. “The overall mission is to send a message that we are not going anywhere.”

She said “it’s our lawmakers that are responsible” for animal cruelty law reforms and how they can be reformed.

Michel said the overall goal of the protest was to demand that animal cruelty charges be moved into the state penal code. The maximum jail time a person can get for animal abuse charges in the state is two years, which Michel said is not enough.

This couple in a three-week period bought a dog and allegedly murdered it. They bought another dog and allegedly murdered it. They bought a third and allegedly beat it to a “bloody pulp,” Mitchel said.

Michel, holding a sign of infamous killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and David Berkowitz at the protest, said that acts of cruelty are telltale signs of future acts of future psychopathic actions.

Verbena Smith, another protestor with Puppy Mill Free Long Island, echoed Michel’s calls for stricter animal laws.

“Animal abuse is probably the biggest problem we have in terms of being able to treat our ill because people who abuse animals go on to do worse things,” Santo said. “The first we have to do is prosecute and then we have to follow through.”

Ellie Knoller, 29, of Mineola, faces charges of three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals – an E felony – and three counts of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals, an A-grade misdemeanor. His wife Jessica Kuncman, 30, also known as Jessica Knoller, faces one charge of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals.

Ellie Knoller, if convicted on the top count, faces up of two years in jail. Jessica Knoller faces a maximum of one year in jail.

“Three healthy puppies suffered horrific injuries while they were under the care and control of these defendants,” Nassau County DA Madeline Singas said in a news release issued after the couple was arrested. “Sadly, these animals can’t testify about the unconscionable suffering that they endured, but their blunt-force and neck trauma injuries tell a gruesome story, and we are committed to seeking justice on their behalf.”

Ellie Knoller, 29, allegedly adopted a 10-12-week-old Shepherd mix named Tucker on Feb. 8 from a local pet adoption agency. Nine days later the puppy died from kidney rupture, likely of blunt force trauma that led to extensive internal bleeding, prosecutors said.

A day later, prosecutors allege, Knoller and his wife, Jessica, 30, purchased a brown Goldendoodle puppy named Cooper from a Pennsylvania breeder. Two days later, prosecutors said the dog was brought into Garden City Veterinary Care in cardiac and respiratory arrest.

Cooper’s death was determined to be from a lacerated liver, which prosecutors alleged stemmed from blunt force trauma that led to a lacerated liver and extensive, fatal internal bleeding.

Prosecutors said the incidents followed an investigation after the defendants allegedly brought in a lethargic and lifeless 11-week-old female Goldendoodle puppy named Bella to Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center of Westbury on Feb. 27.

Kuncman did not take Bella to a veterinarian for about 15 hours after she appeared to be in pain, prosecutors also alleged.

Prosecutors said that veterinarians found multiple fractured ribs, bruises on her lungs, bleeding behind her eyes and a broken leg. Doctors performed surgery on Bella and had to insert a metal rod to repair her leg and a steel plate to hold her bones in place.

Gary Rogers, a spokesman for Nassau’s SPCA, said in an interview that Bella is okay and is living with a new family.

“Bella is fine. She’s living on her own now,” Rogers said. “She has adjusted well to her new family.”

Greg Madey, an attorney for Knoller, could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday but had previously told the Daily News that the dogs became sick after they came home.

“He’s denied this from the get-go,” Madey said, according to the Daily News. “They’re horrible accusations, but [it’s] just as bad to be charged with something like this. They’re upset.”

Jeff Groder, a Mineola-based attorney representing Jessica Kuncman, did not immediately return requests for comment but had said in a previous interview that “prosecutors can say what they want” and evidence needs to be bared out, but there is documentation that Bella was taken to the veterinarians.

“Under the circumstances, it’s going to be my position that Ms. Kuncman acted properly,” Groder said.

Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Hernan is prosecuting the case. Both Knoeller’s have pleaded not guilty.

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