Pubdate: Fri, 23 Sep 1998
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Author: Peggy Schenk


EAST LYME - Robert Salvatore, a founder and director of the former North
American Wildlife Association Inc., will be sentenced Sept. 30 after his
conviction earlier this year on charges of drug cultivation and possession.

Salvatore, 50, who founded the nonprofit organization with his wife, Gloria,
in 1987, faces up to 15 years in prison.

His attorney, William Koch of Lyme, said Tuesday he is hopeful the judge
will give Salvatore probation rather than prison time. He will be sentenced
in Superior Court, New London.

Sam Libby, a former friend and volunteer who was living at the refuge and
was charged in the case, was granted accelerated rehabilitation, a form of
probation for first-time offenders.

Salvatore has maintained his innocence since his arrest following a police
raid in August 1997 on association headquarters at 11 Mountain View Road. He
claims he was set up by volunteers who worked at the wildlife reserve with

He said marijuana was found in his bedroom, other areas at the house and on
the 24-acre wildlife reserve, but he did not know how it got there.

Over the years, Salvatore and his wife have cared for and rehabilitated more
that 40,000 animals, including an injured sea hawk rescued from the
beachfront property of actress Katharine Hepburn in the Borough of Fenwick
in Old Saybrook.

In appreciation, Hepburn donated an oil painting she did in the 1960s for an
art auction arranged by association members in 1990 to raise money for the
organization. It was the first and only time the actress, who continues to
live in seclusion in the family home in Fenwick, agreed to have any of her
paintings viewed in public or put up for sale.

Things began to fall apart for the Salvatores in 1997, when Gloria
Salvatore, who holds bachelor's and master'ds degrees in wildlife biology
and rehabilitation, was charged with possession of counterfeit bills in
Rhode Island. Wanted by federal agents and Stonington police on forgery
charges, Gloria Salvatore fled to Egypt, where it is believed she remains.

Salvatore has been free after posting $50,000 bail.

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Checked-by: Rolf Ernst