Bond motion denied for Out of the Box Animal Rescue owner | Local News

Robert Schweickert Jr. will remain in local custody until the Out of the Box Animal Rescue owner’s 27 animal-cruelty charges resolve either by trial or with a possible prison sentence.

Citrus County Circuit Court Judge Richard Howard on Thursday, March 10, denied Schweickert’s motion to give him a bond, rejecting arguments from defense attorney Charles Vaughn his client needs to be released so he can better prepare for his possible sentencing.


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Howard then scheduled the week of April 25 as when the 58-year-old Dunnellon will stand trial on his four felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, and 23 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

April 18 was also slated as Schweickert’s final pretrial court hearing.

Howard told Vaughn this will give Schweickert enough time to either take his case to jurors or accept the judge’s offer to plead open to the court for a prison sentence of up to four years.

Vaughn argued for Howard to set a reasonable bond for Schweickert because having him out of the county jail will make it easier for him to contact witnesses to testify on his behalf and mitigate his punishment from Howard.

Questioned by his lawyer, Schweickert said via a live video link from the jail his “communication to the outside world” has been through his 82-year-old father.

“And it’s been a significant strain on him,” Schweickert said, answering Vaughn. “It would just help me out with the ability to make contact to anyone that you need me to get in touch with.”

Judge makes offer to resolve rescue owner’s animal-cruelty case

Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Schweickert in January 2021 after sheriff’s office animal control officers rescued 43 dogs, a pig and three chickens from unlawful and unsanitary living conditions inside Schweickert’s rescue facility in Floral City.

Schweickert was released from custody in early February after he posted bail on a $10,000 bond. Howard later revoked Schweickert’s bond in August, prompting a re-arrest in court, after finding Schweickert violated the conditions of his pretrial release by possessing animals.

In her rebuttal to Vaughn’s argument, Assistant State Attorney Patricia Diaz questioned Schweickert Thursday about how he applied and received a pair of COVID-19-relief loans for Out of the Box after authorities seized the rescue’s animals, essentially closing his business.

Schweickert said he “didn’t misrepresent anything on the application,” telling the prosecutor he himself doesn’t own animals, the Out of the Box corporation does.

“I have never owned any animals,” he said.

In response, to show Schweickert was lying, Diaz played an audio recording of an Aug. 17 phone call Schweickert made to his father from jail, asking his father to feed his dogs. After hearing the conversation, Howard denied Schweickert’s bond motion.

“There’s enough evidence to keep him in custody,” the judge said.

Howard on Thursday scheduled the week of May 23 for when Dunnellon 48-year-old Thomas Edward Burnett will stand trial on charges he shot at two sheriff’s office deputies.

It’s alleged Burnett in August 2020 threatened to shoot a pair of deputies responding to a house off of West Amman Street, where Burnett was violating an injunction.

Thomas Edward Burnett


Deputies sought cover while Burnett brandished two shotguns and fired them at one of the deputies, striking a tree the lawman was using for cover.

Both deputies returned fire, striking Burnett twice. No other injuries were reported.

Authorities arrested Burnett a few days later after he recovered in hospital. Prosecutors charged him with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.


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