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No charges planned in death, neglect of cattle

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Red Willow County will not press charges against the Indianola-area farmer-rancher who starved to death 111 cattle and fed and watered poorly 143 others.

A statement released this morning by Sheriff Gene Mahon and County Attorney Paul Wood indicates that the farmer-rancher sold the live cattle and disposed of the dead cattle, "in exchange for no criminal prosecution."

The statement reads: "This decision was not made lightly. It was made with the knowledge that some people would not agree with it, and some perhaps would be critical. The purpose of this statement is not necessarily to attempt to change any such sentiments that may be held by any individual. The purpose is to inform the public as to why this matter was handled in (the fashion that it was), and to convey some understanding of the magnitude of the conditions and possible solutions confronting county authorities after the (initial) report was made."

The statement indicates that a citizen (who requested that he remain anonymous) reported the dead and dying cattle to the sheriff's office on Jan. 13. Sheriff's officers and an investigator from the Nebraska Brand Committee investigated immediately and discovered 111 dead cattle and 146 live cattle in poor condition.

Wood and Mahon write in the joint statement, "Never had any of the Red Willow County authorities involved in this case been confronted with a situation of this magnitude."

The sheriff and county attorney determined that their immediate concern was for the live cattle, insuring that no more deaths occur.

The Brand Committee investigator explained how other counties have handled similar situations. The statement reads: "One option would have been to seize the herd, move them to a different location and provide food, water and any medical care and examinations. The sheriff's office was informed that the cost of feeding and keeping cattle as a general rule of thumb is $2 per day per head, which does not include the cost of any transportation or veterinary exams or treatments. A criminal prosecution was estimated to take four to 10 months to conclusion, excluding any possible appeals, during which time Red Willow County would be responsible for all of the costs associated with the live cattle until a final order of the court (regarding the final disposition) of the live cattle. As a separate issue, the proper disposal of the dead cattle would become the responsibility of Red Willow County if not performed by the owner."

Wood and Mahon continue: "Based upon what Red Willow County officials were told about the experiences of other counties in handling similar situations, the magnitude of the situation as outlined, and with the best interest of the live cattle in mind, an agreement was made with the owner of the cattle for him to divest himself of the live cattle and accomplish the proper disposal of the deceased cattle, which the owner has done, in exchange for no criminal prosecution."


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WHAT? Who cares how long it would take to prosecute? Who cares that the individually voluntarily called the sherriff's dept to report the incident? This person should be prosecuted to the fullest extent at any cost for the neglect and masacre he caused under his supervision! Obviously the County doesn't want to "cause a stir". If this were dogs, cats or other animals, I'm sure the County would go forward. INSTEAD THIS INDIVIDUAL IS GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER. Apparently, this is the way of the law in our area lately. I hope this individual was told that he could no longer own any cattle. Otherwise, I'm sure they'd do it again!

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Wed, Apr 2, 2008, at 1:24 PM

Can't the owner of these cattle be held liable for the costs of saving the live cows and also for the disposal of the dead ones. Tell him to sell some acres. I am amazed that Rancher? - Farmer? is not being prosecuted. Is a neglected Cow Mill any worse than a neglected puppy mill?Why if this all started in early January did it just became media worthy in late March?

-- Posted by Pigman1 on Wed, Apr 2, 2008, at 1:49 PM

This is about the outcome I expected. Anytime there is an easy way out county law enforcement will take it. I was at the sale barn the day these cattle were sold and it was a sight I will never forget. I was sickend by the sight. And now after reading the legal decision that has been made I feel that way again. Shame on the rancher and shame on you Mr. Wood.

-- Posted by plainsman on Wed, Apr 2, 2008, at 4:34 PM

Puppy mill versus cattle mill? NO DIFFERENCE. We don't want them in our county. The man "who requested that he remain anonymous" -- what a hypocrite! It's a small town and we just found out who this was and hope that he never ranches again. With no harsh punishment however, he probably won't stop. This man will never learn. Just like the puppy mills...prosecute because of the inability to obey the laws that are setforth.

-- Posted by Rural Citizen on Wed, Apr 2, 2008, at 4:58 PM

You got to be joking. The worse case of animal neglect, cruelty, whatever, that this part of the state and maybe the whole state has ever seen, and our Sheriff and County Attorney decide to let it go. I am ashamed to tell people I live in a community that would let this happen. Remember this at election time !!!!! WE NEED A CHANGE

-- Posted by cowbouy on Wed, Apr 2, 2008, at 9:16 PM

You're right cowbouy, come election time we the people have the right to change things, and this is a perfect example of why we should.

-- Posted by plainsman on Thu, Apr 3, 2008, at 9:17 AM

We got the dumbest law enforcement/county atty in the state ...Read the blogs in the Lincoln and Omaha papers online makes you feel real good about living in hickville/Redwillow County where criminals get a free pass all the time because Wood and Mahon are to lazy to go to court and get a conviction...Just look at all recent womens embelselment cases that a plea bargined down to probation......hey come to RedWillow County and do some crime and do no time should be on a sign out side of town...

-- Posted by Cornwhisperer on Thu, Apr 3, 2008, at 10:14 AM

No surprise here. I learned very fast there is no justice in Red Willow County. When you walk into court w/ evidence (the exact evidence that won two identicle cases in another county) and the judge sides w/ his golfing buddy (who had no defense and admitted the problems)- it's a joke here. I'm not sure why anyone thought they'd stand up for animals- they don't even stand up for citizens rights. Oh, I guess they stand up for citizens depending on their last name or what judge they golf with. After my experience w/ the court system and Paul Wood I wrote letters to the governor when he was deciding if Paul Wood should be judge. I'm glad I did that- now it's in the hands of voters to stop him.

-- Posted by ruralresident on Thu, Apr 3, 2008, at 10:43 AM

Why would you even try and convey some understanding to this illegal act? How does anyone justify 111 deaths caused by neglect and cruelty (starvation)? Does it not matter to Sheriff Mahon, the brand inspector or the Judicial System, Attorney Wood, that these living beings were at the mercy of there owner? This article speaks of a two dollar a day cost to treat the ones that are still alive and talks about medical and transportation cost, doesn't this so called rancher owe it to the animals that are still alive, and the ones that have passed, to take care of these expenses? This isn't an act of the poor rancher he knows right from wrong. Doesn't the legal system in this city/county owe it to the citizens to uphold the law? Isn't that why they hold the offices that they do? From someone in another state looking in on what this community has had to go through with this heart wrenching situation I could only wish you had a legitimate legally system that punished crime when crime was committed. This is the worst case of animal cruelty I have ever heard of.

-- Posted by downshift on Thu, Apr 3, 2008, at 1:19 PM

Red Willow County WOW!! I am appalled at the way things are handled here. I moved from out of state to retire in a small close-knit farm community. The good life, the heartland, the life people read about in magazines. WRONG!! In the short time I have been here I have had a rude awakening as to the values people have. The politics are no different here than that of big cities. The good old boy syndrome. Don't make waves. What? Life is of no importance they are only animals.

This is one of the worst cases of neglect I have ever heard of and the man is going to walk away with a mere slap on the wrist. I cannot believe anyone would even have to take a moment to think about the consequences this so called farmer should have to face. But take a moment to think about this situation, the farmer is not the only one at fault here. The counties elected officials that can walk away from this mess without any sort of justice are as much at fault as the farmer. Guess what folks cattle as well as all other living creatures have feelings. Imagine yourself locked in a pen and just on the other side of the fence there is food, think long and hard how they must have suffered and now we are going to let this man walk away as if nothing had happened. This is so wrong. The good people of Red Willow County need to step up and deal with these people. Make this truly a community where we can be proud of who we are.

-- Posted by downshift on Thu, Apr 3, 2008, at 8:33 PM

I am flabbergasted that this person is NOT being prosecuted for the suffering of the 111 cattle that died and the other 146 cattle that were alive and still suffering! In my opinion Red Willow County is taking the "cheap" way out! This person should be prosecuted to the fullest extent!

This person has disposed of the dead cattle & somehow gotten the other cattle to the sale barn after 111 of those poor creatures had already perished. His excuses in the first article the Gazette were nothing but excuses! There is no reason why he couldn't have found a way to take care of those cattle. His excuses of his tractor being broke down, it being too cold out or two flat tires are ridiculous! In this day & age if he would have asked someone to help him I'm sure he could have gotten the help

he needed before these poor animals suffered! I would make sure that this person is NEVER allowed to own cattle or any other kind of animal ever again!!!

With disgust,

PattyH1956

-- Posted by PattyH1956 on Fri, Apr 4, 2008, at 1:15 AM

P.S. Come election time I hope the good people of McCook remember what your elected officials have done here...

what a disgrace!!!

-- Posted by PattyH1956 on Fri, Apr 4, 2008, at 1:17 AM

I can't believe he sits in a bar and eats, drinks and plays with merry, while his cattle are starving to death. I hope and pray this is not the end of this.

-- Posted by cleamantine on Fri, Apr 4, 2008, at 8:45 PM

Can someone explain why this farmer/rancher is being allowed to stay anonymous? I didn't know people had a choice as to whether or not their name was made public in a case such as this.

-- Posted by chase on Sun, Apr 6, 2008, at 7:16 PM

The rancher/farmer's name is anonymous because they were not charged/convicted with a crime, so it is not public record. Paul Wood is in a difficult position and for people to judge him when they do not know the intricacies of this case or Nebraska law is unfair and ill-advised.

Red Willow County is not taking the cheap way out of this situation. Do people really know how much money it takes to process and try a case like this if the defendant were not to plead guilty? If the county were to try this case, they may not be able to try any other case of the similar magnitude. Other innocent people are in this situation, should they be exposed and condemned for a mistake they did not make?

I am just as appalled as any other citizen of Red Willow County or the Midwest for that thought. But is it our place to decide to crucify him?

If the justice system is there to hold people accountable for their crimes, how does anyone know that he hasn't been? There is no end to the public shaming here. Should he be thrown in prison? They are overcrowded and he probably wouldn't even serve the whole sentence, not even close. The court could make him pay (monetary punishment), but who should receive that money? The court? The county? What is the value of a dead bull, cow, calf? People are so quick to criticize, but what are the reasonable solutions? He will never own another animal again. It is easy to find fault in others.

Do not think that I am condoning what this farmer/rancher has done, it is inexcusable. But to lose faith in our law enforcement and legal system is outrageous. They may not be ideal in the opinion of this community, but they will be at your doorstep when you need them.

Be angry at the perpetrator, be frustrated with the system. But don't forget that the world is not perfect and that criticizing it will not change anything.

-- Posted by local citizen on Mon, Apr 7, 2008, at 12:20 AM

Neither will being silent change anything, no one wants to rock the boat. What is the law for if not for cases like this?

-- Posted by Pigman1 on Mon, Apr 7, 2008, at 4:04 PM

This is my point, what do you purpose be done, logically? Nobody is keeping quiet about this. Because there was such an uproar, Paul Wood and the sheriff addressed the county. What more do you want? The law is there to protect everyone and to hold all of us accountable when we break it. It is not limited to "cases like this". How many cases have there been like this? Not that many and not to this extreme. It was no wonder justice officials were at a loss for solutions.

If you are upset about not being heard, then make an appointment with Paul Wood and/or Gene Mahon. Ask for a press conference to be held by either of these officials. Complaining to a newspaper blog won't change anything.

-- Posted by local citizen on Mon, Apr 7, 2008, at 6:03 PM

Is this just going to die? Is there no recourse for people who want justice - no matter what the Sheriff and County Attorney have said? Is there no way for us, the people to appeal this and demand justice? Why hasn't this made National news - Gazette personnel, are you listening?? I can guarantee you if this had been close to Omaha this would have made National headlines.

-- Posted by _CommonSense_ on Wed, Apr 9, 2008, at 10:06 AM

In most places crulity to animals is a crime which could result a significent fine if not imprisment. I'm having a hard time understanding what happened here.

Ken - MHS class of 1961 (which backwords is 1951)

-- Posted by kenosb on Wed, Apr 9, 2008, at 2:27 PM

This is horrific that the animals were so neglected and yes, something should be done--but don't complain about your legal representation without realizing that it will be your tax money that will pay for the care and litigation of this case.

You know, it is very difficult to hide this large number of cattle--did anyone check to see if they could be of help to this guy??? Did you report it before the cattle reached death and emaciation. All of society has a responsibility with these issues. Does this fellow have the capacity to be in charge of managing animals of these large numbers. Look at the entire picture before all the complaints begine.

-- Posted by luanne on Thu, Apr 10, 2008, at 11:57 AM

Just who was this Brand committee member?? He was wrong - NO TAX MONEY WOULD HAVE BEEN USED FOR THIS!! Any/all charges could have been recovered from the 'farmer' who owned the animals. If he couldn't pay for it, then his assets (land, equipment, etc.) could have been sold to cover it. There is absolutely NO REASON this herd couldn't have been confiscated immediately. How could a NE Brand Committee member, a Sheriff and a County Attorney NOT know that this farmer was liable for any/all charges of taking care of the confiscated cattle???!!!

Mr Brand committee member, Sheriff, and County Attorney - show us the proof of when/how/where other counties were stuck with these charges. And shame on the McCook Gazette for not following up on this - did anyone there research these other counties getting stuck with the bill in a case like this?? Not much to say about any journalistic fortitude here.

What we have here is a simple fact of some lazy, ignorant, low-life who has no respect for anything...followed up with a dose of legal 'experts' with no real legal knowledge nor the know-how and guts to apply it. And now everyone involved just keeps their heads down until this all blows over and the sun shines in Red Willow again. Blissful ignorance - 111 cattle dead - no justice - and no one cares...God help us if a situation of a 'real magnitude' ever happens around here.

-- Posted by _CommonSense_ on Thu, Apr 10, 2008, at 11:20 PM

HORRIBLE! I contacted EVERY National News Media that I could locate on the internet about this incredible miscarriage of justice. Everyone, do the same. Please, this can't be ignored and writing here will NOT SERVE JUSTICE! Just maybe letting the world know about this will..hopefully...gotta do something.

-- Posted by Kat Steadman on Tue, Apr 15, 2008, at 8:49 PM

It is sad a person got away with this crime because of how much it will cost! Are we saying we will only charge the people who have a less costly case? Paul Harvey made a statement not to long ago about how mcCook is the place to go if you want to comitt a crime and go free. Just read the blogs here and you know just what we are dealing with. If the farmer has special issues or mental reasons he couldn't care for the cows, then wouldn't charging him open the doors for his treatment. The farmer being charged would also say to others that we are all held accountable for our actions equally. But, this looks as if it isn't true. Our taxes are spent on things worse than this all the time!!

-- Posted by cynth123 on Sun, Apr 20, 2008, at 10:44 PM


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