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Weston man accused of animal cruelty avoids trial

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NORWALK -

A man from Weston charged in what officials are calling the worst case of animal cruelty Connecticut has ever seen will attend a diversionary program rather than going to trial.

A court accepted Daniel Kopulos' application for the supervised diversionary program, in which he must attend weekly therapy sessions and meet monthly with a psychiatrist. Getting arrested on new charges would void his qualification, and if he adheres to the program for the next two years, his charges will be dismissed.

In September, police arrived at his home on Newtown Turnpike  and found more than 220 dead or neglected animals, with cages, feces, and garbage piled from floor to ceiling in the house and a barn.

Most of the animals were birds and snakes, along with some other reptiles.

Kopulos had owned an exotic pet store in New York City, a store his attorney called the most well-known pet store on the East Coast -- the New York Times even profiled it for its mission of education and conservation.

But Kopulos lost his lease and was forced to close.

His attorney told the court that Kopulos brought the store's animals to his home, where they were initially cared for very well, until Kopulos suffered "a number of traumatic life experiences," causing him to become clinically depressed and unable to function.

His attorney didn't go into specifics about what happened to him, but said everything about this case is completely contrary to how he'd lived his life before then with respect to care and conservation of animals.

"There isn't any evidence into in this case to suggest there was not a mental or emotional condition that impaired his functioning, and so for those reasons, it would not be inappropriate for the court to grant this diversionary program," says defense attorney Michael Fitzpatrick.

The court agreed and found that Kopulos was suffering from a psychiatric disability that "had a substantial adverse effect on his ability to function."

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