Leachman appeals horse abuse conviction to the Montana Supreme Court

2014-02-25T17:22:00Z 2014-08-29T18:42:13Z Leachman appeals horse abuse conviction to the Montana Supreme CourtBy JAN FALSTAD jfalstad@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Billings livestock breeder James Leachman has filed with the Montana Supreme Court an appeal of the conviction he received for abusing horses on his ranch east of Billings.

Leachman, acting as his own attorney, filed notice last fall that he intended to appeal. On Feb. 24, he officially filed his complaint, insisting prosecutors hadn’t proved he owned the horses.

In his appeal, Leachman said he “had NO physical control over these horses” as he lived over 20 miles away in Billings.

He claims in the filing the horses were controlled by the Stovall family, which bought his former Home Place ranch, which he lost in a foreclosure sale.

Following a weeklong trial in December 2012, a Justice Court jury convicted Leachman of abusing at least five of the more than 800 horses he kept mostly on a ranch 16 miles east of Billings. The unbreakable plastic leg bands he placed on most of the horses caused the deaths of at least five horses after he failed to adjust or remove them, according to court records.

He was sentenced to 120 days in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility as part of a five-year sentence and $5,000 fine. He remains free on bail during the appeal process.

He appealed his conviction to Yellowstone County District Court, where he also acted as his own attorney. District Judge Susan Watters rejected his argument that prosecutors failed to prove he owned the horses and upheld his conviction.

On Sept. 20, he filed a notice of intent to appeal Watters’ decision to the state’s highest court. In the spring of 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs seized nearly all of the horses for trespassing on tribal lands and sold them at auction.

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