By Janene Scully
Noozhawk North County Editor
A Santa Maria Superior Court jury has returned mixed verdicts, most of which were not guilty, in the criminal trial of a Solvang animal rescue operator charged with 10 misdemeanor counts stemming from an escalating neighborhood feud.
Julia Di Sieno, 57, who operates Animal Rescue Team on Carriage Drive outside the Solvang city limits, was found guilty Friday, May 25, of violating an order to surrender firearms, possessing a deadly weapon and contempt of court.
Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday, June 11.
However, the panel returned not-guilty verdicts for two counts of stalking, two counts of making criminal threats and one count each of contempt of court, assault with a deadly weapon and battery.
The verdicts, from three cases consolidated into one trial, were read late in the afternoon in Judge James Rigali’s courtroom.
Di Sieno’s neighbors, Richard and Mary Nohr, had alleged that she had harassed them by yelling obscenities, throwing rocks at their house, howling like a coyote, shining a flood light on their house and playing loud music.
She also was accused of hitting a different neighbor with the driver’s side mirror of her vehicle after following him into the El Rancho Marketplace parking lot in late March.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Steven Li said Di Sieno conducted “a campaign of torment” against the Nohrs after accusing them of poisoning her dog.
“This was a pattern of consistent escalating harassment,” Li said.
Jurors watched audio and video recordings of Di Sieno shouting at the Nohrs, including yelling at one point, “Hey, you up there. (Expletive) liars. Hello. Stop it. You’re going down,” followed by mimicking a machine gun.
“This wasn’t Julia being Julia. This was something that legitimately frightened Mary and Richard Nohr,” Li said.
Mary Nohr chronicled dozens of incidents over several months, with Li instructing her to use yellow, blue, red and green dots to show the numbers.
Defense attorney Kevin Dubrall said the case stems from a single statement and a 10-year backstory involving neighbors opposed to the defendant’s animal rescue.
He questioned Mary Nohr’s claim she feared Di Sieno after hearing the recording, noting she didn’t call law enforcement for more than two hours later.
“She wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t scared. She was excited. She had another thing to write in her notebook,” Dubrall said.
The counts on which she was found guilty stem from Di Sieno’s failure to surrender firearms and ammunition as ordered by the judge when she first appeared in court for the original charges of stalking and making criminal threats.
While deputies served that search warrant, they also found a law enforcement baton, which is illegal to own.
The judge ordered Di Sieno to return to court for a sentencing hearing at 9:30 a.m. June 11.
Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com.