Jackie McConnell, the most notorious abuser of Tennessee Walking Horses that the world has ever known, will be arraigned on 22 counts of animal abuse in a Somerville, Tn., court today after a Grand Jury in the Fayette County Courthouse returned a true bill on Monday. The state charges were the result of an undercover video taken in 2011 and finally the man known as “Jackie The Jerk” will be brought before the court sometime in late spring.
McConnell, already a convicted felon after federal charges were proven in Chattanooga last year, will be arraigned with Jeff Dockery, who has three counts, and John Mayes, who has two. State authorities raided McConnell’s barn shortly after the scathing video showed him repeatedly clubbing, shocking and sadistically torturing the horses in his care to achieve the “Big Lick” unnatural gait that is today the scourge of the entire horse industry.
McConnell has a known record that includes over 30 unbroken years of persistent violations of the federal Horse Protection Act but, because laws have been so lax, he has done little more than wink and continue on his way. Last year Federal Judge Sandy Mattice forced the millionaire to pay a $75,000 fine and called him a felon, but McConnell, once a Hall of Fame trainer of the National Celebration headquarters in Shelbyville, could now see jail time on the state charges.
Efforts to reach Asst. DA Mark Davison in Fayette County were futile yesterday, but in July the state put into law an animal protection bill that made such abuse a felony, each count good for one-to-five years. Because the men were indicted before the law went into effect could be a sticking point; before the act of soring horses with caustic oils and pastes was merely a misdemeanor.
McConnell provided a trophy for this year’s Celebration and, while he is forbidden to own or train horses, it is suspected he still has a presence in the seedy “Big Lick” portion of showing horses, which has now made the state of Tennessee the world leader in horse abuse. (No other country purposely maims its horses for sport.)
McConnell’s lawyers, of course, are quick and eager to strike a plea with state prosecutors and knowledgeable persons suspect a judge in the West Tennessee court would approve such an arrangement if the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor might not be worthy of a full-face trial.
Federal prosecutors in Chattanooga are keen on better legislation – now proposed in Washington – and have said they will actively pursue horse abuse as horse-show season begins. “When you deal with murder, rape, strong-armed robbery, conspiracy and everything else we see, it is hard to admit horse abuse is pretty far down on the priority list,” said one assistant DA.
“But we are also well aware the public outcry against horse abuse is raging after the Jackie McConnell tape was shown on ABC News ‘Nightline’ and we haven’t had a case of any kind that caused such outrage. We will actively monitor and pursue and viable lead we can find.”
Officials of the Humane Society of the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other animal protection agencies are targeting Tennessee, as well as hotbeds of abuse in North Carolina and Kentucky. With last year’s success and strengthened Tennessee laws, many true horsemen feel violators must go to jail before the rampant soring will stop.
The top two equine veterinary groups in the United States have openly called on the nation’s lawmakers to ban the built-up pads, or stacks, that shady Walking Horse owners use, as well as performance devices and tight bands around the hooves. Legislation is pending but the “Big Lick” crowd is fighting back. Not long ago they held a reception for a disreputable Senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell (not believed to be kin to Jackie).
The Kentucky senator has bullied the USDA to “lay off” the Shelbyville “Big Lick” crowd and was the subject of a scathing series in the Lexington newspaper this summer. But, just like the defiant and now-battered Big Lick hierarchy, the Republican Senator doesn’t seem to realize or even care he is a “bought” puppet of treacherous people.
Curiously, people haven’t forgotten the undercover tape or Jackie. The tape just won a Genesis Award in Los Angeles and copies of it have been viewed with disgust all over the world. Jackie is famous and, if state charges can somehow shoehorn the villain into jail, it will be a colossal achievement for the men and women worldwide who honor the horse.