Wild horse advocates acquitted of all charges in Storey County dumping case

Virginia Range mare and foal. Photo: Mark Robison.
Virginia Range Mare and Foal.


RENO, NEVADA (October 17, 2013) — After a day-long trial in the historic Storey County Court House, Judge Steve McMorris acquitted the Let ‘Em Run Foundation and horse advocates Willis Lamm and Shirley Allen on all charges brought about by the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Director of Agriculture Jim Barbee had alleged that the defendants had dumped eight former Virginia Range horses onto the open range without rebranding the horses, that they had abandoned them and that they had let them starve. Barbee then widely spread those allegations in the press and throughout the State Legislature.

The defendants argued that the horses had been placed on the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, which was private land, with the permission of the Managing Partner, Lance Gilman.

In court, one of the department’s own witnesses described the industrial center as over 100,000 acres of private property with a fence that was “built strong enough to keep Arabs out.” It was acknowledged that anyone’s fences could be vandalized but that as a legal matter, the defendants position was ruled as correct in that the property was properly enclosed.

Another of the state’s witnesses, who acknowledged in court that he had memory problems when he drank too much, had claimed that he found a horse that had belonged to Let ‘Em Run that had starved to death. His claims were soundly rebutted by veterinarian Gerald Peck who analyzed photographs of the horse and explained why the horse could not have starved to death. Judge McMorris commented when looking at the photo of another horse provided by the Department that the horse in that photo “looked fat.”

Department Brand Inspector Blaine Northrup admitted under cross examination that he had no factual basis for the allegations of abandonment or failure to provide necessary food or drink, and also that he had not even been out to the industrial center property. He eventually admitted that he got most of the details that he put in his investigative report off a web site on the Internet.

Two witnesses described abusive behavior that they suffered at the hands of Director Jim Barbee in an encounter with him on a public street in Reno.

When questioned, defendant Lamm described an instance when State Veterinarian Phil LaRussa ordered then department employee Mike Holmes to take an orphan foal and “pop it in the head and put it in the landfill.”

That event followed an encounter between LaRussa and defendant Shirley Allen wherein LaRussa warned that he would kill orphan foals if Allen and Lamm didn’t do certain favors for the Director. Both events had been recorded and posted on YouTube, drawing the ire of the department.

For many years Allen has cared for orphan foals for various agencies and other horse groups.

Lamm was also questioned about a complaint that he filed with the Nevada Attorney General that described an event where Northrup participated in the secret delivery of Virginia Range horses to kill buyer Kevin D. “Ole” Olsen of Elko, Nevada. At the time of the complaint, the delivery was corroborated by then Brand Inspector Darryl Peterson. The Attorney General declined to pursue the incident when records that documented the event appeared to have gone missing.

Lacy J Dalton sings for wild horses with Willis Lamm. Photo: Terri Farley blog.
Lacy J Dalton sings for wild horses with Willis Lamm.

The defendants have historically hounded the Nevada Department of Agriculture, an agency that they characterize as being dishonest and holding itself above the law.

Their present position is that the department’s prosecution constituted a form of reprisal that most likely violated Federal law.

The acquitted defendants are discussing their options with their legal counsel in hopes of preventing the continuance of the department’s bad conduct.

When Judge McMorris announced the verdicts a courtroom full of supporters celebrated the victory.

Then all went home to feed their animals.

The advocates were defended by Allison Joffee and Robert Hager.

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5 thoughts on “Wild horse advocates acquitted of all charges in Storey County dumping case”

  1. Dealing with these crooks in Nevada is like trying to have a conversation with the BLM. Nothing they say makes sense because of all the lies.


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