Felony Charges in Michigan Horse Abuse Case Dismissed

A judge yesterday dismissed the felony animal torture charges leveled against two Grass Lake, Mich., men in a case that began more than one year ago.

According to attorney Ronald J. Fabian, who represents defendant Matt Mercier in the case, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Chad C. Schmucker dismissed three counts of felony animal torture against Mercier and codefendant James Henderson, Jr.

The pair were charged with the felonies and one count of misdemeanor animal abuse in March 2007 after authorities seized a total of 69 horses owned by Henderson from a ranch operated by Mercier.

In his five-page opinion, Schmucker ruled that the District Court erred in finding probable cause in the case.

"There was no finding by the District Court to suggest that either of the defendants knew their actions were wrong at the time this crime was committed or that they intended to cause physical or mental harm to any of these three animals," said Schmucker.

The pair will appear in Schmucker's court June 16 on the misdemeanor charge.

Jackson County Chief Appellate Attorney Jerrold Schrotenboer said the prosecutor's office is "considering its options" in the misdemeanor case, but according to Fabian, the dismissal of the felony charges could open the door to further litigation.

"Now that the felonies are gone," said Fabian, "the question becomes, can these guys sue the county for malicious prosecution?"

Since the horses were seized, one was euthanized, three were adopted out, and the rest were sold to defray the cost of their care to the county.

For more on this case see "Michigan Horse Abuse Debate Rages On" and "Michigan Horse Cruelty Case Stretches to Autumn 2008."

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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