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Zoo Director Pleads Guilty in Wallaby Death

Reston Zoo director Meghan Mogensen, accused of drowning a wallaby, avoids second trial by entering guilty plea in Fairfax County General District Court.

Meghan Mogensen, the Reston Zoo director who in September was found guilty in Fairfax County General District Court of animal cruelty and drug possession, has pleaded guilty to the charges, the Virginia State Attorney General's Office says.

Mogensen, 27, was supposed to begin the appeal of her 30-day sentence Feb. 13 in county Circuit Court.

Instead, as part of a deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty on Friday to the the animal cruelty charges, the Washington Post reports. In the deal, the charge for possession of an animal euthanasia drug without a license was dropped.

Mogensen's 30-day sentence has been upheld and she is barred from making decisions about the care or euthanasia of animals if she serves as an animal caretaker or manager of a zoo.

Mogensen's father, Eric, is the Reston Zoo owner. Mogensen returned to work within days of her arrest in June.

The charges stem from an incident in January 2012, in which Parmesan, an injured adult wallaby, was euthanized. Mogensen maintains she humanely put the animal down with a lethal injection.

However, a disgruntled zoo employee called authorities after she said Mogensen drowned the animal in a bucket and threw his body in a dumpster.

After September's one-day bench trial in which nearly two dozen veterinary and forensic experts were called to testify, Judge Ian O'Flaherty sentenced Mogensen to the $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail on the animal cruelty charge and a $250 fine and suspension of her driver's license for six months on the drug count. Both of the charges are misdemeanors.

Neither Mogensen nor her attorney, Caleb Kershner, could be reached for comment.

To read all stories related to this case, click here.

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Laurie Dodd January 03, 2013 at 07:32 PM
I would call the "disgruntled zoo employee" in this story a whistleblower and a hero in this instance.
Tim Dennison January 03, 2013 at 11:22 PM
AM I incorrrect to think that you cannot be tried twice for the same crime. "double jeopardy" or some such law! It would seem to me that euthenasia in ANY form for ANY MAMMAL, in need, should be legal, and in some instancies should be revered with applause!
Karen Goff January 03, 2013 at 11:37 PM
The Circuit Court trial was to be an appeal of the guilty verdict in the General district Court trial. She pleaded guilty - in effect agreeing to the guilty verdict and revoking her appeal.
Kate Peterson January 04, 2013 at 01:55 AM
I think the issue was that the animal could have been treated; it's injuries were not life threatening but it was more cost effective to put the animal down rather than provide treatment.
Emily W. January 04, 2013 at 02:51 PM
"disgruntled" certainly sounds like a biased word to me. Does the patch have a relationship with the zoo? A journalist is supposed to tell facts. This should read "former employee," or "whistleblower." Words like disgruntled (and hero), have no business here in a news story.
Wwacker January 04, 2013 at 03:46 PM
I agree - "disgruntled" is inappropriate. My son used to work there...and I do not feel this woman should be branded as harshly as she has been.
Jacquelyn McCord January 04, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Seems to me this could have been avoided if she had called a vet vrs. taking matters into her own hands. I agree with the verdict, thanks for keeping us updated Karen Goff.
Karen Goff January 04, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Never thought the word disgruntled held connotations and I have not relationship with the zoo or any of the people involved. I DID sit through the trial, though, where the employee recounted the whole sad story and her confrontation with Meghan Mogensen and how she quit on the spot in disgust. So....here is the definition of Disgruntled - Adjective Angry or dissatisfied. I would say the employee was angry. Really angry. And Wholly dissatisfied. So it is an appropriate word.
Laura Ramon January 04, 2013 at 08:11 PM
You hit the nail on the head- She made a determination that had nothing to do with the health of the animal and everything to do with the cost of treating the injury. This is why this type of family run zoo is such a bad idea. Using animals for profit in this way will almost always lead to exploitation.
Andria Lapthorn January 05, 2013 at 07:50 PM
I am so disappointed to hear she still works there. I followed the initial story but didn't catch that she was still employed there. I am so disappointed. She is bad for business and bad for the Reston community. I returned to the zoo late in the fall with my family because I didn't think I should avoid it for one bad apple; knowing that she is still there leaves me disgusted.
Skip Endale January 06, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Remember, wallaby died for your sins.

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