Plea Deal Offered in Florida Horse Poaching Case

Two Florida men accused of poaching two horses and butchering them for their meat will soon decide whether they will accept a plea deal in the case or go to trial for multiple felony charges.

Miami-Dade County law enforcement authorities arrested Luis Miguel Cordero on Sept. 15, 2009, as he attempted to poach two horses located in the pasture of a Northwest Miami-Dade County ranch. He later confessed to an incident in Miami Gardens involving a horse also poached and slaughtered for its meat.

Six days later, Miami-Dade Police arrested Santiago Cabrera in connection with a July 2009 incident involving a horse discovered dead in a pasture near its stables, apparently butchered for its meat. He later confessed to taking part in the Miami Gardens killing. The killings were two among 20 similar horse poaching incidents that took place in Miami-Dade County and Miramar, Fla., in 2009.

Cabrera and Cordero were each charged with multiple felonies including killing a registered breed horse, armed burglary, and animal cruelty in connection with the killings.

The charges carry penalties of up to life in prison. However, Miami-Dade County State's Attorney Michael Von Zamft, said each man could serve a sentence of five years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty to the charges.

Von Zamft said the penalties represent the stiffest ever sought in Florida for criminal cases involving animals.

"Even five years is pretty impressive, actually," Von Zamft said. "We've never had such a long sentence for someone who killed an animal before."

Equine welfare advocate Jeanette Jordan is less pleased with the terms of the deal. "Five years in a state penitentiary seems too little punishment for what they did," said Jordan, president of the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Neither Cabrera's attorney Juan Gonzalez, nor Cordero’s attorney Pablo Casasnovas were available for comment.

A status hearing in the case is slated for Oct. 15 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court when Cabrera and Cordero can either accept or reject the plea deal. If the men decline to accept the agreement, a trial in the case is tentatively set for Jan. 31, 2011.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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