Cesar Parra Alleged Abuse Case Under Legal Review As Indictable Offense

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Cesar Parra riding Grandioso for the U.S. team at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, last year. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Charges of animal abuse by 2011 U.S. Pan American Games dressage team rider Cesar Parra are being reviewed by New Jersey’s Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether there is probable cause for an “indictable offense,” or what is known in other states as a felony.

Two complaints–one criminal and one civil–were filed against Cesar Parra, who rode for Colombia in the 2004 Olympics, by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, about an hour from New York City. An SPCA officer in New Jersey is recognized as a fully authorized law enforcement officer.

Summons were issued against Cesar Parra, who has a farm in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, to appear in Readington Township Municipal Court in Whitehouse Station on Thursday, April 5 to answer charges of “torment, torture” and “overdrive, overwork…abuse” of a living animal on or about June 6, 2009.

The rider, based in Jupiter, Florida, while competing on the winter circuit, was accused of mistreatment of the horse, William PFF.

If convicted of the charges under New Jersey’s anti-cruelty statutes, he would face a maximum penalty of a fine of up to $1,000 and six months’ imprisonment.

However, after the charges were filed in the municipal court, the case was referred to the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office (typically referred to as a District Attorney in other states) for a legal review.

The review by an assistant prosecutor will determine the degree of the alleged offense and whether there is probable cause to refer charges to a grand jury to determine whether it should go to Superior Court in Hunterdon County or to return the case to the Readington Municipal Court.

It is not known how long the review will take.

A spokeperson for Cesar Parra said after the charges were filed initially in Municipal Court that he has retained legal counsel to deal with the allegations and “fully expects the charges will be dismissed as the sad true facts about the accident in question come to light.”

Cesar Parra. the spokesperson said, does not deny the horse was injured in an incident involving his evaluation of the horse. The owner had sought Cesar Parra’s opinion about her young dressage prospect at his facility in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey in 2009.

In the presence of the owner and several observers, the horse was longed.

“Without warning and unpredictably, apparently in response to an outside stimulus, the horse suddenly exhibited dangerous behavior, reared, lost his balance and fell over backwards striking his head on the ground,” the spokesperson said.

“Dr. Parra is deeply saddened that the horse was injured, but categorically denies any allegation of cruelty, abuse, gross negligence, recklessness or any other inappropriate conduct in the handling of the horse.”

He won team silver for Colombia at the 1999 Pan American Games and rode in the 2003 Pan Ams, and competed at the 2002 and 2006 World Equestrian Games, the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2005 World Cup Final in Las Vegas.

As an American, he won the U.S. Intermediaire Championship in 2010

He rode on the U.S. team that won gold at the Pan American Games that was competed at small tour in Guadalajara, Mexico, last year.

He is currently competing Van the Man, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding (Obelisk x Lady x Landjunker) that was bought as an Olympic prospect. The horse was previously ridden by Dorothee Schneider of Germany.