The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | 4:03 p.m.
Two men accused of gunning down five wild mustangs in Nevada last year entered not guilty pleas before a U.S. magistrate Tuesday as horse protection activists outraged by the slaughter watched from the courtroom gallery.
Todd Davis, 44, and Joshua Keathley, 36, both of Lovelock, face up to a year in prison and $100,000 fine if they are found guilty of harassing and killing the federally protected horses.
Federal prosecutors accuse the men of "maliciously" causing the deaths by shooting the horses Nov. 28 on the high-desert rangeland belonging to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management near the California line about 150 miles northwest of Reno.
"We can't allow certain ignorant people or vested interests who have targeted these animals to get away with murder on public lands," said Craig Downer, a wildlife ecologist and fourth-generation Nevadan who serves on the board of directors of the Colorado-based advocacy group the Cloud Foundation.
"These horses are not just out there for sport and these guys are going to pay," added Elyse Gardner, who traveled from a ranch in Novato, Calif., to join Downer and a half dozen other activists in the front row of the courtroom gallery.
Daniel Bogden, U.S. attorney for Nevada, said his office has received as many as 8,000 e-mails from "all over the world" urging maximum prosecution of the two men.
"We take the offense very seriously, as the prosecution of these defendants should demonstrate," Bogden told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert McQuaid released the men without requiring a bond but ordered them to get rid of any firearms, working or not, until after the trial set for June 22.
"I have a broken shotgun but I'll get rid of it," Keathley told the judge, who instructed him to turn it into the Lovelock Police Department by the end of Wednesday.
Todd Plimpton, a Lovelock lawyer for Davis, and John Springgate, a Reno lawyer for Keathley, told AP after the hearing they had no comment.
The men were charged in January with "causing the death of a wild horse" after the BLM offered a $10,000 reward and the Humane Society of the United States added $2,500 for any information leading to criminal convictions in the case.
Prosecutors say the two men allegedly shot the horses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the remote area about 40 miles southeast of Cedarville, Calif. A BLM helicopter crew assisting in a horse roundup on Dec. 5 spotted five mustang carcasses in one area and a sixth dead mustang about a half-mile away.
Even though it is only a misdemeanor, Bogden said the charge is the most serious available under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.
In Defense of Animals, the California-based advocacy group that helped mount the e-mail campaign with a form letter on its website, questioned why prosecutors didn't file separate criminal counts for each of the five horses shot.
Bogden would say only that "the provable facts and evidence dictate our charging decision and trial strategies."
Activist Terri Farley, Reno author of the popular "Phantom Stallion" series of children's books, said she attended the hearing Tuesday to show support for the way prosecutors have handled the case.
"What happened in the courtroom today is a far cry from what used to happen to suspected horse thieves in the Old West, but I'm really happy federal charges were filed," she told AP. "I'm thinking the feds must have enough to nail these guys."
More Wild Equine Murder: 11 Burros killed - Hefty reward for merciless killings - Be sure to see all three (3) links
below for more info
PHOENIX, AZ : A number of wild burros were found shot to death Monday near Lake Pleasant.
Nothing like this has ever happened to any of the protected herds in Arizona, according to Bureau of Land Management officials. (this is simply not true, back in the 1990's there were 54 burros massacred on "Black Friday" near Oatman, Az. The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros http://www.ispmb.org/ (ISPMB) put up a $22,000 reward but no one was ever charged! Whomever it was, it is said, the killings were the work of a professional marksman. After the Oatman killings, the ISPMB was influential in getting the punishment increased for the willful killing of a BLM wild horse or burro, from $2,000 to $100,000, each kill! We are talking alot of money here and if more people knew the severity of the punishment, perhaps that knowledge would act as a deterent.)
The AZ BLM calls this act "unthinkable," and are hoping someone comes forward with information.
A senseless massacre took place near scenic Lake Pleasant after 11 wild burros had been shot dead. The carcasses were found spread over several acres of public land.
Pamela Mathis, with the Bureau of Land Management, admits, "It's despicable."
BLM rangers say the burros were shot sometime last week and range in age from adult to newborn. Mathis explains, Literally newborns. Some were recently born and some were right in the process. There was no mercy."
Randy Helm, who owns burros, tells 3TV, "When you're talking about babies it raises the level. It's more unthinkable." Helm is one of many around the Valley who have adopted wild burros.
Burros are docile and curious, whether in pens or out the wild where they are protected animals on federal lands.
Chuck Russo, an outdoorsman admits, "I was absolutely horrified. I've looked at those burros since I was a little boy." The slaughter prompted Russo to organize a number of outdoor clubs and to donate reward money in hopes of finding the people who gunned down the burros. He tells 3TV, "They're almost tame. They've been around so long and know all the people who drive by and stuff like that."
That is what made the wild burros easy targets. Now rangers and outdoorsmen have a target of their own as they try to catch the killers. The reward for information about the slaughter is at least $5,000. If found and convicted, the people who did this face fines and prison time.
People who have any information may call The Federal Law Enforcement Agency at 1-800-637-9152.
Here is an article from Prescott, Az., where a commentor actually
THANKS the killers! It is this type of mind-set that we are fighting against. Rebuttals needed, please;
Thanks for caring.
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