Attorney wants out of animal cruelty case

An attorney representing a Whidbey woman accused of animal cruelty no longer wants her as a client.

An attorney representing a North Whidbey woman accused of multiple counts of animal cruelty no longer wants her as a client, according to court documents.

Lawrence Delay, a Friday Harbor attorney, filed a motion on Aug. 18 in Island County Superior Court for leave of court to terminate representation of Kristi Finch.

The case has attracted much public attention, spawning a new animal welfare group and a revision of animal welfare code by Island County officials. Many people have been watching the criminal trial closely, appearing in court and observing online.

Prosecutors charged Finch in Island County Superior Court earlier this year with two counts of animal cruelty in the first degree, five counts of animal cruelty in the second degree and tampering with a witness. The charges concern two emaciated horses found dead on her property late last year as well as other animals that were neglected, charging documents allege.

Earlier this month, Judge Christon Skinner agreed with a prosecutor’s request to order the forfeiture of horses, dogs, cats, pigs and chinchillas taken from Finch’s farm by law enforcement. The dogs and cats will be available for adoption at Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation shelter.

In his recent motion, Delay cited a court rule that allows a lawyer to withdraw from representing someone in court when the lawyer and client have a “fundamental disagreement.” He wrote that he received dozens of communications by email from Finch that illustrated a difference of opinion about the defense strategy.

“However, since the conclusion of the forfeiture hearing, that difference has become significant and prevents us from moving forward to present a unified defense,” Delay wrote.

The judge will hear the motion to withdraw at a Sept. 5 hearing.

Delay is the second public defender assigned to represent Finch. The first attorney withdrew because of a conflict of interest, which resulted in a delay of the trial.

Finch has successfully defended against an animal cruelty charge in the past.

In 2009, Skagit County prosecutors charged Finch with animal cruelty and transporting or confining animals in an unsafe manner. Animal control seized 39 dogs from her, according to a Skagit Valley Herald story.

She avoided the felony charge and pleaded guilty to two counts of transporting or confining animals in an unsafe manner, which is a misdemeanor, according to court documents.