A Saucier couple is still facing backlash from the public after cruelty charges were dropped and multiple animals returned.
“This commentary does not come without consequences,” The couples’ lawyer, Michael Crosby said. “These comments cause pain, anxiety, and distress to people who are extremely good people who have the biggest hearts in the world.”
Over 100 animals were seized from the home of Sharon and Daniel Bertok by Harrison County law enforcement in March 2020. The Bertoks’ were charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty after the animals were removed from their property and placed in the care of three different animal welfare groups.
On April 1, 2021, Justice Court Judge Brandon Ladner dropped all 107 charges of animal cruelty against the Bertoks and ordered 25 animals that were seized last year to be placed back under their authority.
Bobo, a double yellow-headed amazon parrot, and Yoshi, a blue and gold macaw, were returned to the Bertoks last month along with several animals that were being housed at Wild Acres in McHenry.
Crosby said he is “disturbed” to see the public disparage the couple after they have been cleared of all charges after being treated unfairly from the beginning.
He says the couple continues to face character attacks by the public on social media after photos of their home and the animals became public one year prior.
People have criticized the condition of the home for being cluttered, cramped and dirty, and for being filled with too many animals who were not being taken care of.
Crosby explained the photos were taken days after the Bertoks were preparing to evacuate from a wildfire; Sharon Bertok was dealing with chronic pain from a back injury at the time, which made simple tasks take longer for her to complete; and the animals that were not in the best condition were that way or worse when the couple originally took them in.
“They took pictures with no notice that they were going to raid the house…on a day immediately following a massive wildfire that stopped at the Bertok’s door,” Crosby said.
He said the photos spawned a social media “lynch mob” against the Bertoks based on “exaggerated and false information by law enforcement,” and the “raid” to remove the animals was a result of incompetence by local law enforcement.
“They jumped to conclusions without conducting a proper investigation,” Crosby said. “I haven’t said this before because I felt like I should be diplomatic and…rise above it…I’ve made every effort to not be derogatory or make negative comments toward the deputies that handled this case, but they are putting me in a situation where I am having to call them out and point out the errors they made and the violations of the rights of the Bertoks.”
Crosby said the attacks on the couple continue because law enforcement has not owned up to their mistake.
“When they make mistakes, they need to come out and admit, they need to tell the truth because they are allowing the Bertoks to continue to be disparaged and humiliated and hurt,” Crosby said.
Crosby was asked if the Bertoks had cleaned their home and provided larger living quarters for the animals that have been returned, he refused to comment.
“I am not agreeing that they changed anything because, at this point, the concerns of anyone in this matter have become irrelevant to me because my only concern is the Bertoks’ wellbeing,” Crosby said. “They were…wrongfully punished for being very good people.”
Crosby said he nor the Bertoks intend to comment or trying to fight “unfounded commentary” now the charges have been dropped and most of their animals have been returned.
“I’m no longer concerned about what these commentators have to say,” Crosby said. “The people have been vindicated in court.”