Ex-animal rescue president rejects animal cruelty plea deal; elects for bench trial

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A former animal rescue president accused of starving five dogs to death has rejected a plea deal and instead will go to trial.

The state's offer called for Heidi Lueders to spend 2 ½ years in prison. It also would have allowed her to plead guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty charges rather than felony animal cruelty charges, which she's currently facing.

In court Friday, she waived her right to a jury trial and requested a trial by judge.

Lueders is the former head of Bully Breed Rescue, which has since dissolved.

MORE: Attorney pursues new defense for ex-animal rescue president accused of starving dogs | Former animal rescue president accused of starving 5 dogs arrested again 

Last November, police found the skeletal remains of five pit bulls in her home in Fairfield. Each dog was still in its cage with a collar still on.

The case led to outrage around the area and beyond, with the community naming the dogs the “Fairfield Five.”

An attorney was appointed as an animal advocate for the dogs in court. Attorney Ken Bernhard told News 12 that he believed the state’s plea offer to be fair.

“If I were her, I would've taken it,” says Bernhard. “I think the difference between looking at a felony conviction and having the guarantee of a misdemeanor on my record in the long term would've been better."

Lueders’ attorney Rob Serafinowicz says the court-side trial is the “best option that we had with what we were presented with.”

Animal advocates told News 12 they were happy she rejected the plea and hope she’s convicted on the felony charges.

Her trial is expected to begin next year.

Along with the animal cruelty charges, Lueders faces a felony charge of criminal damage to a landlord's property by a tenant. Police say the home she was living in was filled with garbage, animal feces and drug paraphernalia.


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