Man accepts plea deal in animal cruelty case |

Man accepts plea deal in animal cruelty case

— A fifth-generation Routt County rancher has accepted a plea deal related to an animal cruelty case.

The defendant was charged with five felonies. The charges were criminal mischief, theft of agricultural animals, attempted theft of agricultural animals and two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.

He was accused of shooting two of his neighbor’s bulls in the testicles, killing one of them.

According to a search warrant, another longtime South Routt County rancher learned from the defendant’s wife that two of his breeding bulls had been shot. The wife claimed her husband shot the bulls because he was angry the bulls were on their property.

After several delays, a jury trial was scheduled to begin last week, but the defendant accepted a plea deal offered by the Routt County District Attorney’s office.

He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief. The felony charges were dismissed.

The defendant was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation. He also will have to pay restitution and was assessed $258 in fees.

District Attorney Brett Barkey and Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen did not respond to requests for comment.

Complicating the prosecution’s case was Colorado’s marital privilege laws. In some cases, a defendant can argue that his or her spouse cannot testify against the defendant.

The defendant also had a criminal case in Summit County with three felonies and two misdemeanors.

In August 2014, a woman reported being hurt by the defendant during a domestic incident at a hotel in Silverthorne, according to a warrant.

On Wednesday, Summit County District Attorney Bruce Brown said he dismissed the charges.

“I came to the conclusion that we would not be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Brown said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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