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Judge Declines to Release All Names of Animal Rescue Team Complaints

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge ruled on a motion seeking to quash a defense request for names of people who reported zoning complaints against a Solvang animal rescuer now charged with eight misdemeanor crimes.

Julie Di Sieno, 57, appeared in Judge John McGregor’s courtroom Wednesday for a hearing on motions, including whether Santa Barbara County Planning and Development must reveal the names of people who complained about Animal Rescue Team operations.

Di Sieno’s attorney, Kevin Dubrall, sought records from the county planning staff for zoning complaints regarding the Animal Rescue Team, which Di Sieno operates at 875 Carriage Drive outside Solvang city limits.

County officials opposed the subpoena, filing a motion to quash the request, and adding that the complaints acquired in confidence led to an investigation and proceedings to abate violations found on the defendant’s property.

“Disclosing such information would have a chilling effect on future complaints, which are a prerequisite to an enforcement investigation,”  Deputy County Counsel Danielle Drossel wrote in her motion. 

“As a result, the county would be prevented from investigating potential violations, and actual violations would go undetected and unabated, thereby compromising public health, safety and welfare,” Drossel added.

In his ruling, McGregor agreed that any complaints involving those in the criminal case against Di Sieno could be turned over to the defense attorney, but names of others must remain redacted for now.

In addition to Drossel, an attorney for the neighbors, Lauren Joyce, was on hand to oppose release of names for other complaints. 

Ruling on a different motion filed by Deputy District Attorney Steven Li, the judge agreed to consolidate the two misdemeanor cases against Di Sieno. 

She initially faced two stalking charges and two counts of making criminal threats in the first case filed in December.

Another four misdemeanor charges — unlawful Firearm Act violation of restraining order, possession of a deadly weapon, and two contempt-of-court counts — were filed in late February after DiSieno allegedly failed to turn over firearms as ordered by the judge. 

Following a long-running neighborhood feud involving Animal Rescue Team operations, the criminal case began in October when Di Sieno’s neighbors, the Nohrs, were having dinner on their patio and heard the defendant yelling.

A review of the surveillance video reportedly revealed Di SIeno making animal noises and shouting “Hey, yeah, you up there. You (expletive) liars. Hello? Stop it,” according to the motion of consolidate the cases.

She added, “You’re going down,” and made loud sounds as if imitating gunfire, court documents said.

In January, deputies discovered Di Sieno had not surrendered her firearms as ordered by the judge.

After obtaining a search warrant, deputies found a Glock 19 pistol, a Ruger revolver, a pink semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun, a Browning pistol and a tranquilizer rifle, according to court documents.

Hundreds of rounds of ammunition of various caliber also were found, along with a baton similar to those used by law enforcement officers.

The case returns to court April 12, and a trial, estimated to take four days, is tentatively set for later this month.

Di Sieno also was arrested in late March following an allegation she assaulted a neighbor with her vehicle by driving her truck toward him and striking the man on the shoulder with the side mirror of her vehicle. Video evidence and witness statements corroborated the victim’s report, the Sheriff’s Department said.

No charges have been filed in that case, but Di Sieno was ordered to appear in court in late April.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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