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Backyard butcher reports to serve time

Canyon Country man begins serving 90-day sentence amid courthouse protest

Posted: June 26, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 26, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Robert Celedon heads into San Fernando Superior Court to begin his 90-day sentence.

 

SAN FERNANDO — A Canyon Country man who illegally butchered animals in his backyard began his 90-day jail sentence Tuesday, shielding his face from a small group of animal rights activists as he arrived at court.

Shortly after 9 a.m., Roberto Celedon, 26, a resident of Tick Canyon Road, arrived at the San Fernando Superior Courthouse with his wife and was met by at least three members of the Mercy For Animals group.

Although the interaction was quiet and relatively cordial, Celedon made it clear he did not want to talk to anyone.

One of the Mercy For Animals members had, according to a spokesman for the group, secretly videotaped the illegal slaughter of animals at Celedon’s ranch, then turned the tape over to Deputy District Attorney Julie Kramer.

Inside the courthouse, appearing in front of Superior Court Judge Harvey Giss, Celedon — in a buttoned blue-and-white checkered shirt, dark pants and white sneakers — spoke quietly when addressed by the judge.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty, a felony, and to having operated a meat-producing plant without a license, a misdemeanor.

He was subsequently sentenced to 90 days in county jail.

As ordered by the judge, Celedon appeared Tuesday for a restitution hearing in connection with the case and to begin serving his time behind bars.

The county Department of Animal Care and Control wants to recoup the money it spent caring for animals found on Celedon’s property.

A department spokeswoman, who sat in on all of Tuesday’s court proceedings with a uniformed member of the same department, told The Signal outside court that the county is seeking about $20,000 in restitution.

“There was a lot of money involved,” Kramer told the judge, “so we’re happy to set another date for it.”
Celedon waived his right to have the restitution hearing heard in court Tuesday.

Instead, the hearing was re-scheduled for next month, at which time Celedon is expected to be brought back to court from county jail.

In addition to his jail time, Celedon received five years’ probation, as well as being ordered not to possess any animals for slaughter, not to operate a meat-producing facility, not to attend auctions where animals are sold and not to sell any meat products.

He was also reminded by the judge Tuesday that he is expected to attend 48 animal cruelty classes as part of his sentence.

At that point, Celedon was allowed to say goodbye to his wife.

The couple stepped into the hallway briefly, then Celedon returned to court where he was taken immediately into custody.

Animal rights group members were pleased with having helped prosecutors with their case, specifically with having videotaped Celedon’s operation.

“Due to the sensitive nature of our undercover investigation, we don’t want to go into details of exactly how the cameras work or how the footage was obtained,” said Matt Rice, spokesman for Mercy For Animals. “Suffice it to say it was a hidden camera, so Celedon was unaware he was being filmed.”

The group’s videographer gained access to the Celedon property having posed as a prospective meat buyer, Rice said.

Celedon was arrested March 26 on 13 criminal charges in relation to the slaughter of farm animals and the sale of their meat over a six-month period, according to a seven-page felony complaint filed by Kramer.

According to prosecutors, Celedon ran an unlawful slaughterhouse described as dirty and unsanitary that operated without a license and without inspection.

Celedon sold meat to individuals who would come to his home to purchase it, running what’s commonly called a “backyard butcher” operation — a violation of the law, said Jane Robison of the District Attorney’s office shortly after his arrest.

Animal control officials. acting on a specific warrant issued in relation to the animals observed on Celedon’s property, took control of those animals April 3.

Smaller animals rescued, including pigeons and chickens, were turned over to the Castaic Animal Shelter.

The large animals identified in the complaint — a horse, five cattle, 14 goats and nine sheep — were put in the care of the Gentle Barn animal rescue nonprofit on Sierra Highway, rescuers have said.

The health of the rescued animals improved in the weeks following their relocation to Gentle Barn.

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