A disbarred Billings attorney appeared in court Thursday to face multiple animal abuse charges spanning years.
Randy Scott Laedeke, 60, was charged with at least two counts of cruelty to animals, one of them a felony, and one count of livestock unlawfully running at large, a misdemeanor.
Justice of the Peace Pedro R. Hernandez allowed Laedeke to remain out of jail during Thursday's initial appearance in Yellowstone County Justice Court.
An investigation into this case began in August 2015, when two loose horses were spotted south of the interstate near Billings. A county animal control officer noted that one horse appeared malnourished and both had scabs and scars, charges state.
Officers determined Laedeke to be the owner, and they inspected his property. They found multiple horses in "poor condition" with no visible feed around, charges state. Others had neglected hooves, and the pasture was over-grazed, according to court documents.
The officer rated multiple horses as a one on the Henneke Body Scoring System, a standardized numerical scale used to evaluate a horse's body mass. One is the lowest score.
Over the following months, officers returned to inspect the animals. In August 2015, the officer noted that of about 32 horses on the property, just eight appeared to be in "decent body condition," charges state. A Montana Equine Medical/Surgical Center doctor reached similar conclusions in October 2015, according to court documents.
Inspections in March 2016 found another neglected horse, according to court documents.
A former attorney, Laedeke was disbarred in 2015 for mishandling a client's settlement in the wake of a vehicle crash death. The Montana Supreme Court ordered him to pay $65,547 in restitution.
Then in 2016, he faced federal charges for wire fraud for alleged embezzlement in that same case. Prosecutors said that Laedeke took outsized fees from a settlement while representing the estate of a person who died in a car crash.
That case was dismissed in September 2016.
In Montana, disbarred attorneys cannot reapply for admittance for at least five years.
In the animal case, Laedeke is scheduled to appear in Yellowstone County District Court on April 27.