The Marston farmers who were acquitted last year in the county's largest animal-cruelty case have filed a $700,000 libel and defamation suit against the Humane Society of Carroll County Inc. and two sheriff's deputies.

Carroll Lynn Schisler and his brother, August Frederick Schisler, claim in the suit that the Humane Society, its director and its chief animal-control officer "maliciously, negligently and inexcusably exposed" the Schislers to "public hatred, contempt and ridicule."

Also on Thursday, the Schislers requested zoning permission to re-open a small-scale slaughterhouse on their 112-acre farm.

The 18-count suit names the Humane Society; its director, Carolyn "Nicky" Ratliff; animal control officer David R. Stair; and two sheriff's deputies as defendants.

The defendants asked earlier this month to havethe suit dismissed. Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. on Monday gave the Schislers a month to file reasons why it shouldn't be dismissed.

The original suit was filed in Carroll Circuit Court in April, about a year after a Humane Society raid on the Marston farm revealed piles of rotting animal carcasses and more than 250 diseased and malnourished animals.

Ratliff declined to comment on the case last week; County Attorney Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson Jr., who is representing the defendants, did not return calls.

The Schislers also declined to comment.

Their attorney, Margaret Mead of the Baltimore firm Walker VanBavel & Brown, said, "My clients have told me they don't wantme talking to the press."

On July 18, however, Mead told a reporter about the case and expressed interest in discussing its details.

The raid on the farm -- owned by the Schislers' mother, Lucille, since 1958 -- raised an outcry in Carroll and the Baltimore region, as videotapes of the animals and their living conditions were broadcast on Baltimore's major TV stations.

Ratliff said then of the farm and the condition of the animals, "I certainly hope none of it ends up on my plate. It's a good reason to become a vegetarian overnight. With any luck, there is nothing like it in the state."

The videotape featured a pig's body floating in a food trough, as well as a battle between dogs and two malnourished swine over a meal of goat carcass.

Carroll Schisler was found guilty of assault and battery against Sheriff Sgt. David Showalter. Showalter and Deputy Charles Paulson arenamed in the Schislers' libel and defamation suit.

The lawsuit seeks the most money from Ratliff, Stair and the Humane Society; it seeks a total of $120,000 from Showalter and Paulson, claiming they assaulted Carroll Schisler.

According to the lawsuit, damage to the Schislers' reputation resulting from the case caused a drop-off in their business. The brothers sell hundreds of cattle a year at auctions, as well as 15 to 25 cows, 30 to 40 sheep and about 100 goats a year to individuals, many of whom used the Schislers' slaughtering facilities before taking the animals home.

The Schislers' "reputation withthe public for integrity, moral conduct and proper actions as livestock dealers are essential to their future as livestock dealers," court records say. By bringing the animal cruelty charges against them, Ratliff, Stair and the Humane Society did so with "the malicious desire to destroy and otherwise ruin the (Schislers') farming and livestock business."

In all, the suit seeks $126,600 in compensatory damages and $575,000 in punitive damages.

The brothers' appearance before the county Board of Zoning Appeals Thursday was for permission to once again operate the small-scale slaughterhouse they had been operating on their farm for years. The slaughterhouse would be for their own use and for the use of individuals who buy livestock on the farm.

Such a slaughterhouse is a conditional use in agricultural zones.

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