Judge postpones ex-animal rescue president's sentencing, hears emotional victim's impact statement

The former animal rescue president who was acquitted of starving five dogs to death but convicted of destroying the house they were found in was back in court Wednesday for what was supposed to be her sentencing. Instead, Judge Peter McShane granted a last-minute request from Heidi Lueders' attorney to hold off on handing down her punishment.
Attorney Rob Serafinowicz took issue with the pre-sentencing report including information about the dogs' deaths since Lueders was found not guilty of animal cruelty charges. She was only found guilty of criminal damage to property during her trial in February. At the time, the judge ordered a psychological evaluation ahead of sentencing. Serafinowicz also said Wednesday that was never done.
"I think the court would be well served having that evaluation. I feel the defense would be well served having that evaluation," Serafinowicz said. "I apologize to everybody for the delay including the court. I apologize to the victim, Ms. Roberts, and anybody that's taken time out of their day to appear here today, but I have obligations as defense counsel."
McShane still allowed landlord Celly Roberts to make her victim's impact statement as scheduled. Through tears and a trembling voice, Roberts told the court how she sunk all her money into buying that property in Fairfield.
"I cannot emphasize how important that was for me as a milestone in my life. To have come from so very little and achieved this through so many years of hard work and savings, this is one of my life's greatest achievements," Roberts said.
Roberts said Lueders, who the president of an animal rescue at the time, was the third tenant she'd had there.
"I remember thinking, what a kind of person that you were for caring for those loving companions," said Roberts addressing Lueders personally. "I feel silly now for ever thinking the best of you."
She went on to describe walking into the home in November 2018 and finding it filled with garbage, animal feces and drug paraphernalia.
"I cannot forget the shock that I found after what I saw and smelled. The house that I worked so hard to build and care for was destroyed. Then as it progressed into that nightmare, I saw the cages and remains of the companions that you so-called 'cared for'," Roberts said. "The only word I can think about this right now is 'traumatic.'"
The damage was so much Roberts couldn't pay for it, and insurance didn't cover it. She lost her home to foreclosure and also struggled emotionally, mentally and physically during the course of this case.
"When I think about how little remorse Heidi Lueders displays, it chills my blood that she learned nothing from this and is not inclined to be a better person," Roberts said. "Justice for me I fear is a lost cause at this point. But justice indeed needs to be served. I beg you, your honor, to consider what I have said here and consider the others she may harm going forward with a minimal sentence."
The judge thanked Roberts for sharing her story with the court. "I thank you not only for your courage, but I thank you for the words that you expressed today. And I want you to know this: your voice was heard," McShane said.
The hearing will continue May 4. Attorney Ken Bernhard, the animal advocate on the case, will address the court then despite Lueders' acquittal on animal cruelty charges. She faces us to five years in prison.