1 of 2 activists accused of stealing livestock from Petaluma farms reaches deal

One of two defendants in an animal activist case reached a plea deal Thursday and was convicted in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Priya Sawhney pleaded no contest to two counts of trespassing and was ordered to do 100 hours of community service through the Sonoma County Volunteer Center, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.

She was also ordered to stay 100 yards away from the Petaluma-area chicken and duck farms involved in the case, which began with two demonstrations in May 2018 and June 2019.

Several defendants have reached plea deals or had their charges dismissed since proceedings began and the lone remaining defendant in the matter is Wayne Hsiung.

He’s charged with two counts each of conspiracy and trespassing.

Attorneys and defendants are under a gag order and it was not immediately clear when opening statements would begin in Hsiung’s trial.

The case stems from protests the group held at two locations in Petaluma: Sunrise Farms on May 29, 2018, and Reichardt Duck Farm on June 3, 2019.

The defendants are accused of taking chickens and ducks without the permission of the owners of those farms.

The activists contend they believed the animals were being mistreated and have said California’s animal cruelty laws gave them the right to rescue animals in distress.

Owners and representatives of the affected farms have rejected the activists’ claims, and farming industry officials have said the incursions raised serious security and safety concerns for their operations.

Proceedings have been spread out over years due to routine court scheduling and delays, compounded by outside factors.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

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