Jackie McConnell Sentencing Hearing

The sentencing hearing for Jackie McConnell and two co-defendants in the horse soring case was originally scheduled for September 10, 2012 in federal court in Chattanooga, TN. But Federal Judge Sandy Mattice rescheduled the sentencing to September 18, 2012. McConnell had pleaded guilty to violating the Horse Protection Act.
Dr. Doyle Meadows, CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, issued the following statement regarding the date change in the sentencing of Jackie McConnell:

“We are disgusted and outraged over the horrific acts of Jackie McConnell. In response, we took the strongest action available to us by issuing a life time ban that prohibits him from entering our grounds for any and all events. Additionally we stripped him of his status in our hall of fame. As far as we are concerned the only place Jackie McConnell belongs is in a jail cell and it is unfortunate that he is not being prosecuted under the new horse cruelty law,” The Scoop Walking Horse Publication reported.

In the decision September 18, McConnell was fined $75,000 and sentenced to three years’ probation. U.S. District Judge Harry Mattice Jr. accepted McConnell's plea, imposing the fine, which could have been up to $250,000, and probation at a federal court hearing in Chattanooga. McConnell faced up to five years in prison if the agreement had not been accepted. McConnell was required by the court to write a letter about the soring of horses, the pain it causes, and the long-term effects. He was also asked to say how widespread soring is in the letter,The Chattanoogan reported. McConnell has nine months to pay the $75,000 fine. He is to serve 300 hours of community service. In addition, he must forfeit a 40-foot horse trailer, which was seized by state officials, The Tennessean reported.
Jeff Dockery and Joseph Abernathy, two employees of McConnell’s stable in Collierville, TN, also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the case and were sentenced to probation as well. They also are to write letters on the subject of horse soring. Dockery, 54, said McConnell set him up as a trainer and paid for his application. Abernathy, 30, said he is a farrier who was not involved in soring but in transporting horses. Abernathy said, “I do feel remorse and this will make me a better person in the end,” The Chattanoogan reported. 

Mattice characterized the plea agreement as “substantially ambiguous” for not spelling out a specific punishment. His ruling did not fulfill the prosecutors’ wishes for a maximum sentence under the agreement, The Tennessean reported.
Mattice offered a lengthy preamble about plea agreements before hearing from the attorneys, a highly unusual back-and-forth in which both sides elaborated on the plea agreement. The plea agreement did not specify probation time, fine, or community service. It did, however, state that probation for McConnell was appropriate, The Tennessean reported. After a long discussion and a recess, Judge Mattice said he had decided to accept the plea agreement “in toto,” The Chattanoogan reported. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put a lifetime ban against him taking part in the horse industry. 

Those in attendance at the hearing included former Senator Joseph Tydings, sponsor of the Horse Protection Act in 1970, and Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States.

Former Senator Joseph Tydings said that horse owners in Tennessee and Kentucky had “for decades tortured horses by altering them with a phony gait that is based on violent cruelty to the horses. In Tennessee, the officials have known what is going on, but they have done nothing about this ‘big lick.’”

“It's been about the culture, the money, the celebration. They don't give a d*** about the poor horses,” he added, reported The Chattanoogan.

The Shelbyville Times-Gazette quoted Senator Tydings: “This ‘big lick’ has got to go!”

The Shelbyville Times-Gazette also reported that the Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization (TWSHO) reaffirmed its commitment to reform and the elimination of soring trainers in the walking horse industry.

“Those who abuse horses should be held accountable and we hope that today's sentencing sends a message to those who hurt horses that this type of activity will not be tolerated,” said TWSHO spokesman Jane Lynch Crain. “The vast majority of people in the walking horse industry are involved in the sport because they love the walking horse and it is unfortunate that a few soring trainers have tarnished the reputation of the industry and the deeds of those involved.
“To rid the Industry of soring trainers TWSHO has been working to implement unprecedented horse safety reforms that include stricter inspections and harsher penalties. Industry reform efforts have resulted in a higher rate of compliance with the Horse Protection Act. Our goal is to ensure that all horses are healthy and sound and we are eager to work in partnership with all parties interested in putting horse safety first,” the Shelbyville Times-Gazette reported.

US v. Jackie McConnell Sentencing Memorandum [DOWNLOAD]

Read the Shelbyville Times-Gazette article at: http://www.t-g.com/story/1895549.html
Read The Tennessean article at: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120919/NEWS01/309190109/Tennessee-Walking-Horse-trainer-Jackie-McConnell-gets-probation-75-000-fine?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE
The Chattanooganarticle is available at: http://www.chattanoogan.com/2012/9/18/234572/McConnell-Gets-75000-Fine-3-Years.aspx

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