Do you remember the James Leachman story?
It is a tragic story of horses left to die at a Montana ranch while disputes raged between Leachman, who owned the ranch where they were kept (situated on tribal lands) and a neighboring cattle ranching family who bought the ranch when it was foreclosed on. No one it seems were tending to these horses, some of whom were found starved to death in the snow.
However, a major focus at the Leachman cruelty trial was that Leachman had put identification bands on the horses and did not supervise them. Investigators found that the bands had not been adjusted or removed as the horses grew. The unbreakable plastic leg bands caused the agonizing deaths of at least five horses.
Leachman was found guilty of horse abuse and sentenced.
We reported the following in December, 2012:
Yellowstone County Justice of the Peace Larry Herman sentenced Billings livestock breeder James Leachman on Wednesday to serve five years in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, with all but 120 days suspended, for horse abuse.
The judge also fined Leachman $5,000 and prohibited him from owning cows or horses for the duration of his sentence.
Herman granted all the jail time and fines sought by the prosecution. Leachman faced a maximum five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Leachman, 70, was led away in handcuffs after the sentencing, but he plans to appeal his conviction to Yellowstone District Court. His son, Seth Leachman, was making arrangements in the courtroom to post a $5,000 bond to immediately release his father from jail during the appeal.
The main bone of contention is, who was responsible these horses at the time of abuse, neglect and death.
The Billings Gazette reported:
Leachman’s limited liability company, Leachman Cattle Co., used to own the Home Place ranch, but the property on the Crow Reservation was sold at a U.S. Marshal’s Service foreclosure sale. The neighboring Stovall family paid $2.6 million for the ranch.
In an interview Leachman told the newspaper that “his horses were starving and said Turk Stovall had been moving his horses around without his permission until he didn’t know where they all were”. Stovall said “they want the horses off before the grass their cattle will need starts growing.”
As the story unfolded, it was made clear by authorities that the horses still alive would not be for long, and would soon starve to death. The local community and people from around the country came to the rescue donating cash and supplies; hay drops were successfully made.
Eventually the surviving horses who remained at the ranch or had roamed onto neighboring ranches, were sold at auction. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs seized a large portion of the horses who had left Home Place ranch, trespassing onto tribal lands, and sold them at auction.
Following his sentencing Leachman made it clear he would appeal his conviction. And now he has.
Jan Falstad, reporting for the Billings Gazette, writes:
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 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.
— Leachman sentenced to jail for horse abuse Dec. 13, 2012
— Leg bands not humane testifies expert in Leachman trial, Nov. 29, 2012
— Leachman horse abuse trial begins, Nov. 7, 2012
— Leachman denied public defender in horse abuse case, Apr. 17, 2011
— Who is responsible for the Leachman horses?, Jan. 31, 2012
— Students don hats for Leachman horses, Jan. 29, 2011
— First hay drop for starving Montana horses a success, Jan. 28, 2011