Virginia officials have issued an arrest warrant for a Baltimore County farmer in the latest development in a saga involving an allegedly stolen calf and animal rights activists.
Anthony Scott Braglio, 57, who runs Braglio Farms in Woodstock, is wanted by police in Virginia for allegedly using “profane, threatening or indecent language over public airways or by other methods.”
The warrant, issued by James City County in Virginia, stems from a phone call that recorded secretly by Ryan Phillips, who owns an animal sanctuary called “Life with Pigs” in Williamsburg, Virginia.
The phone call in question allegedly happened after Baltimore County police traveled to the Virginia animal sanctuary to recover a calf that police said was stolen from Braglio Farms. Phillips and others have accused Braglio Farms of neglecting the calf, a charge Baltimore County officials said has no credence.
The warrant for Braglio was issued not because of a police investigation but because of a criminal complaint by Phillips. Police in Virginia said they’ve referred the complaint to the commonwealth’s attorney. Braglio does not appear to have any charges listed in Virginia online court records.
“[The commonwealth’s attorney is] reviewing whether or not the complaint is valid,” said James City County Police Department spokesman Steve Rubino.
Rubino said the warrant would be served on someone in Virginia, but “once he’s outside of the state of Virginia, it’s an extradition matter. Typically, you don’t extradite somebody from out of state on a misdemeanor charge.”
Phillips alleges that Braglio made death threats and other threatening remarks against him during a phone call about the calf.
In late April, Baltimore County police were called to Braglio Farms after the owners discovered a months-old calf was missing. Two women were charged with stealing the calf, named Milly by the farm owners, and taking it to Life with Pigs.
In the recording of the phone call, which has been reviewed by Baltimore Sun Media, a man does make threatening statements toward Phillips on the phone. The man is not identified in the recording, however.
In an interview, Braglio declined to discuss ongoing legal issues. He did say, though, that his life and his family members’ lives have suffered because of online activism and social media campaigns.
Braglio said he’s been unable to advertise his businesses because of online targeting, that people have been making phone calls to his business, the Woodstock Inn, and the places where his grandchildren go to school.
“This whole neighborhood is up in arms,” Braglio said, because his neighbors — also farmers — are scared they might be targeted, too.
Erika Lynn Wilkinson, 19, and Jennifer Lauren Sully, 44, were both charged with six counts, including felony theft, related to the calf. Felony charges of second degree burglary against both women has been dropped. Both women’s cases have been moved to Baltimore County District Court.
After the calf, which Phillips and other animal rights activists named “Sophie,” was returned to Braglio by Baltimore County officials, Phillips said he began calling farms in the area offering money in order to get the calf back.
In a phone call that Phillips said was with Braglio, Phillips offered to pay for the calf before the man on the other end of the call makes threatening remarks.
Phillips said the calf had become like a “family member” and that he worries about her condition and future prospects in Baltimore County. Phillips has shared dozens of photos, videos and testimonials that he says show the calf was emaciated and neglected when it arrived at the animal sanctuary. An animal abuse investigation in Baltimore County found no evidence of abuse or neglect at Braglio Farms, Baltimore County police officials said previously.
Braglio Farms has accused Life with Pigs of falsifying the photos, and Baltimore County police said the photos did not play a significant role in their investigation because they could have been altered.
The Morning Sun
Phillips said he sought the warrant for Braglio’s arrest because of the phone conversation he recorded without the other speaker’s consent. In Maryland, it is illegal to record a conversation without consent from both parties involved; it is not illegal in Virginia. Phillips said he continues to pursue charges against Braglio because he feels he is still in danger.
“I literally have built fences, I put in cameras … we feel unsafe every day,” Phillips said.
Baltimore County police officials did not return a call seeking comment. No charges have appeared for Braglio in Maryland online court records.
The stolen calf has spurred an online movement of concerned activists who want to see it returned to the Life with Pigs sanctuary. The “Friends of Sophie Action Network” on Facebook has nearly 1,000 followers, for example; a GoFundMe campaign to cover “legal expenses” related to “get[ting] Sophie safely home to Life with Pigs” has raised $1,300, and a petition calling for the calf to be returned to the Virginia sanctuary has garnered over 83,000 online signatures.
Baltimore County police officials said previously, however, that there is not a legal justification for the sanctuary to get the calf back. Officer Jennifer Peach, a police spokeswoman, said the women involved should have “made a complaint” to animal control if they thought the calf was being mistreated, instead of allegedly stealing the cow.