Disbarred Pocahontas County attorney appealing animal welfare conviction

By Lawrence Smith | Nov 19, 2012

MARLINTON – A disbarred Pocahontas County attorney is challenging his recent conviction on charges he neglected animals at his former residence.

MARLINTON – A disbarred Pocahontas County attorney is challenging his recent conviction on charges he neglected animals at his former residence.

Anthony Tatano on March 15 was charged with three counts each of animal abandonment and withholding sustenance, and two counts of no proof of rabies vaccine, all misdemeanors. The charges were filed following an investigation by the Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Department after two people called on Feb. 23 expressing concern about a horse and two dogs that “appeared to be in very poor health” at Tatano’s property on East Woodrow Branch Road.

According to the criminal complaint filed by Deputy B.A. Shinaberry, the callers, who are not identified in court records, said Tatano, 49, and his family relocated to Canonsburg, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh, five days before. After receiving the calls, Robin Robertson, the county dog warden and Josh Vaughan, the assistant dog warden, went to the Tatano residence and discovered two dogs “chained to two houses with no bedding and... no food or water.”

One of the dogs, a black and brown Rottweiler, Shinaberry said “was so weak that he had trouble standing up on his hind legs and appeared to be very underweight.”

Upon checking on the horse, Shinaberry discovered it, too, “appeared to be underweight with its back bone sticking out approximately one to two inches.” Also, the hay given the horse to eat was “rotten and moldy.”

When contacted, Shinaberry said Tatano told him he left plenty of food and water for the dogs on Feb. 19 before leaving for Canonsburg. Though he would be returning on Feb. 27 to pack more belongings, Tatano said he would have someone care for the animals in the meantime.

Also, he said he would fax proof of the rabies vaccine by Feb. 29.

However, when Robertson and Vaughan say they made a follow-up visit on Feb. 27 they found Tatano was not there, and the condition of the animals remained unchanged.

At a July 26 trial, Tatano was found not guilty on one of the abandonment and one of the withholding substance charges, and guilty on the remaining ones. At his sentencing hearing on Aug. 8, Magistrate Janet L. Kershner-Vanover imposed a $300 fine, and $160.80 in court costs.

Also, she ordered Tatano make $5,582.80 in restitution to the Pocahontas County Animal Shelter for the services they provided.

According to court records, Tatano appealed his conviction to Pocahontas Circuit Court on Sept. 7. A pre-trial conference was scheduled for Nov. 16 before Judge James Rowe.

Four years ago, the state Supreme Court disbarred Tatano following his conviction on Sept. 22, 2008, on two counts of embezzlement by power of attorney. According to court records, the charges stemmed from 18 months earlier when Tatano took $6,000 out of the client trust account for two children, and converted the money for his own use.

In a statement he gave to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the arm of the Court that investigates attorney misconduct, Tatano said he took the money to prevent foreclosure on his home, but subsequently repaid the clients. Despite that, Tatano was sentenced to two concurrent six-month terms of unsupervised home confinement and fined $459.63.

At the time he embezzled the money, Tatano worked part-time as an assistant prosecuting attorney. According to the Pocahontas County Clerk’s Office, Tatano was employed Feb. 1, 2002, until Aug. 31, 2007, and paid $31,800.

This time next year, Tatano, who was first admitted to the state Bar on April 14, 1999, is eligible to petition the Court for reinstatement of his license.

Pocahontas Circuit Court, case number 12-MAP-3-8

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