Leachman fined and sentenced to jail | TSLN.com

Leachman fined and sentenced to jail

Jan Falstad
for the Billings Gazette

Yellowstone County Justice of the Peace Larry Herman sentenced Billings, MT, livestock breeder James Leachman on Wednesday to serve five years in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, with all but 120 days suspended, for horse abuse.

The judge also fined Leachman $5,000 and prohibited him from owning cows or horses for the duration of his sentence.

Herman granted all the jail time and fines sought by the prosecution. Leachman faced a maximum five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Leachman, 70, was led away in handcuffs after the sentencing, but he plans to appeal his conviction to Yellowstone District Court. His son, Seth Leachman, was making arrangements in the courtroom to post a $5,000 bond to immediately release his father from jail during the appeal.

At least four of Leachman's horses died in "horrible agony," the judge said.

All Leachman had to do, Herman said, was attend to his horses that were crippled from plastic leg bands put on their front legs for identification purposes, bands that weren't adjusted or removed as the horses grew. Leachman has taken no responsibility for the dead horses he's charged with abusing, Herman said, or many more in his herd of more than 800 horses that were limping from the tight bands.

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"He indicated at trial and today he would to it all over again," the judge said.

The Yellowstone County Attorney's Office charged Leachman with animal abuse on January 2011, but his trial was delayed until late last month.

On Dec. 4, a six-person jury found Leachman guilty of all five misdemeanor counts of animal abuse for the Hairpin Cavvy brand horses he raised on a Crow Reservation ranch east of Billings. The trial lasted seven days, a record for Yellowstone County Justice Court.

During sentencing, Leachman represented himself. After he was convicted, he fired his two deputy public defenders, who sat through the sentencing.

Chief Deputy Attorney Rod Souza noted that Leachman had no criminal record. But Souza asked for jail time and the maximum fine because of Leachman's "deliberate indifference" to his injured horses and the need for the county to feed and water hundreds of his horses during the winter of 2010-2011.

"What the court has seen in display is extreme arrogance," Souza said.

As he did at trial, Leachman insisted during his sentencing that no one has proved he neglected his horses and that he didn't know there were any problems with the leg bands.

In asking the judge for leniency, Leachman told the court that he had broken his right kneecap but delayed surgery because of the trial; that he suffered a heart attack in recent years and lives alone on Social Security income. He also argued against a lifetime ban on owning livestock, which the prosecution wanted.

"I own interest in livestock all over the world, residual interests," he said.

Leachman said he would rather be sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder than be thought of as a horse abuser.

"To lay this on me is like putting on a leper suit," he said. F

–reprinted with permission from
the Billings Gazette

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