CONCORD — The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a search warrant that led to the seizure of Great Danes from the Wolfeboro mansion of millionaire Christina Fay and her eventual 2018 animal cruelty convictions.
In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the argument by Fay’s lawyer that police violated his client’s right to privacy when they allowed Humane Society workers to accompany them on the 2017 warrant-authorized raid on her home.
Fay’s lawyers have said the Humane Society took photos during the search and used them for a fundraising campaign.
Had the Supreme Court thrown out the warrant, it would likely result in a mistrial and render the evidence obtained in the search, including photos and the 84 malnourished dogs, inadmissible in a future trial.
The sentence from her 2018 trial, stayed during appeal, will go into effect shortly, according to Deputy Carroll County Attorney Steven Briden.
The sentence comprises more than $2 million in restitution to the Humane Society, a $2,000 fine for each of the 17 misdemeanor convictions and a 12-month jail sentence, which is suspended for five years, Briden said.
If Fay gets into trouble in the next five years or does not comply with the terms of the sentence, prosecutors can move to have her jailed. Other terms of the sentence include mental health counseling and a limit on the number of dogs she can possess, Briden said. She can own two of the Great Danes taken from her mansion and only one once they die.
Earlier this year, Fay filed suit against the Humane Society of the United States for $35 million to cover the loss of affection from her dogs, loss of stud and breeding income and the value of the dogs themselves.
In an 11-page opinion, Justice Barbara Hantz Marconi wrote that Fay could not claim a violation of the 2018 privacy amendment to the New Hampshire constitution because it had not been adopted when the search took place.
She also said the search did not violate the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Hantz Marconi noted there is little precedent in New Hampshire case law for police taking citizens along in searches.
She noted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that faulted Wisconsin police for bringing reporters in on a search. But courts favor police inviting civilians if they can render assistance.
Fay did not dispute that Humane Society assistance was necessary; she merely said police should have informed the judge who approved the warrant that the Humane Society would be part of the search.
That wasn’t enough to overturn the warrant, Hantz Marconi wrote.
However, she added: ‘We agree with the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, however, that it may be wise for officers to notify the issuing magistrate of the fact that civilians will assist in a warrant’s execution, when it is possible to do so.”