Leachman Appeals Animal Cruelty Conviction to Montana Court

A Montana rancher found guilty of maltreating a herd of horses residing on his property has appealed his conviction to that state's Supreme Court.

In 2011, Yellowstone County prosecutors charged rancher James H. Leachman with multiple counts of misdemeanor cruelty in connection with a heard of approximately 450 horses residing on land owned by the Crow Tribe. Five of the animals connected to the case where euthanized due to their condition; the surviving horses were placed in new homes. Leachman pleaded not guilty to those charges. A jury later found Leachman guilty on five counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. He was sentenced to pay $5,000 in fines and to serve five consecutive years in jail;.all but 120 days of that jail sentence was suspended. Immediately after the conviction, Leachman appealed the case to the Yellowstone District Court; Leachman's sentence was stayed pending the outcome of the appeal. According to court documents, that appeal was denied.

A representative for Montana Supreme Court Clerk Ed Smith said that in September 2013, Leachman appealed to the Montana Supreme Court regarding the lower court's finding. And on Feb. 24, Leachman filed a brief connected to the Supreme Court appeal.

In the brief, Leachman said his ranch was sold to another family during a Marshall's sale in 2010, and that family took possession of the real property on which the horses were pastured. As a result, Leachman argued in his brief, he never had custody of the horses.

Leachman, who has represented himself in all the court proceedings, declined comment on the case.

Audrey L. Degele, deputy clerk for the Yellowstone 13 Judicial District Court Criminal Division, said Leachman is free on bail pending the outcome of the Supreme Court appeal.

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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