Roy Exum: No Criminal Background?

Monday, October 1, 2012 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There is a lawyer in West Tennessee named David Douglas who seems to be pretty slick. He’s representing Jackie McConnell, the serial horse abuser who is facing 17 counts of animal cruelty as depicted on a horrendous video tape that has been seen by millions. Jackie was set to go to trial last Tuesday morning in Fayette County but lawyer Douglas quickly got the case pushed back to Nov. 13.

That way, the legal eagle said, he hopes to work a plea deal with district attorney Mike Dunavant so McConnell will receive only probation after he savagely beat and abused horses in his Collierville barn. The lawyer Douglas explained, “(Jackie) has no criminal background so certainly we’d be asking for probation and hoping the state may agree to that.

“This is a complicated case,” Douglas told a reporter for the Jackson Sun newspaper. “It’s a lot of counts but we believe we have had some level of success in getting this resolved, and I think by the 13th, it will be resolved. But until the plea is either entered or agreed to and the judge has approved it, that’s all subject to change.”

Excuse me but how much longer will it be before this ridiculous charade comes to a stop? To begin, Jackie McConnell became a convicted felon on Sept. 18 in a ederal court in Chattanooga. While his West Tennessee counsel claims his client has no criminal background, a combination of thin laws and a passive horse industry has hidden over 30 years of McConnell’s systematic horse abuse and hundreds of animals that have been sored at his whim.

The problem is that McConnell’s long list of suspensions and abuses in the industry have been civil matters and he wasn’t prosecuted by federal officials until just this year when the first-ever legal actions were sought regarding the Horse Protection act. Ironically, every conviction was brought on a charge other than animal cruelty. Not until this July did livestock cruelty become a felony in the state of Tennessee, which is why McConnell only received misdemeanor charges after actually using an electric cattle prod on a horse’s lips.

When McConnell appeared in Federal Court last month, Judge Sandy Mattice assured the crowd that being a federal felon was “a pretty big thing” and required the defendant – who pleaded guilty – to pay a fine of $75,000 rather than putting the disgraced horse trainer in jail. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had already fined McConnell $150,000.

But in West Tennessee, where it is explained “things are done a little differently,” apparently a federal felony has no merit nor bearing when lawyer Douglas can say, “no criminal background.” Great goodness, all they have to do is show the nauseating tape and the prosecutor can produce scores of eyewitnesses who will confirm McConnell has a long string of citations for abusing horses.

Close observers say that lawyer Douglas got the court date pushed back not so the cases of two other defendants could be heard but in hopes the hot issue will cool down with the autumn winds. To the contrary, the public sentiment towards the abusive segment of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry has never been as harsh.

Just last week it was learned veterinarian Dr. Steven L. Mullins, who has served as the president of the SHOW group in Shelbyville, had abruptly stepped down in a move that promises further turmoil to the much-maligned “Big Lick” segment. SHOW has sued the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in a Texas court and the legal tiff is nothing compared to sordid reputation that the McConnell tape has triggered across the country for the Big Lick’s unnatural gait and wide-spread cheating.

Some believe Mullins’ departure is a financial necessity after a very “tense” National Celebration in late August and Wade Adams, a longtime employee who oversaw the Shelbyville physical facilities for 12 years, has apparently been fired after a heated disagreement with new Celebration president Mike Inman. Inman just replaced Dr. Doyle Meadows in the Shelbyville hierarchy.

Two of the nation’s top equine veterinary groups are demanding the stacks, pads, and “performance devices” that have famously hidden abuse from inspectors now be banned and congressional legislation has already been instigated due to the public’s outcry. Both national and state legislators are being bombarded with angry mailings from their constituents while lobbyists for what is called “the dark side” are working furiously against much-needed reforms.

Sadly, the great majority of the public who own and adore Walking Horses have been unfairly castigated by the actions and behavior of the Shelbyville-based organizations and Celebration’s glaring feud with not just the USDA but the Humane Society of the United States as well. “It makes you want to throw up,” said former Maryland Senator Joseph Tydings, who wrote the Horse Protection Act in 1970. “The Big Lick has got to go!”

Please, are you kidding me! As long as Jackie McConnell and those like him are allowed to skate on probation charges, the Big Lick isn’t going anywhere. And felony charges? There were numerous incidents and proven abuse seen at the Shelbyville show in August but Bedford County officers said it was a federal manner and not one arrest was made, despite the fact it became a state law on July 1.

Outside the Sheriff’s office in Shelbyville there is a huge sign today that reads, “We support the TWH.” No kidding.

royexum@aol.com



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