Roy Exum: ‘Jackie the Jerk’ Is Done

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Jackie McConnell, the notorious horse trainer who was videoed abusing and beating defenseless horses in a now-famous undercover tape, pleaded guilty to 12 of 22 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse in a west Tennessee courtroom Tuesday and – in the most glorious part of the sentencing -- the 61-year-old criminal is expressly forbidden to own, possess, train or house horses for the next 20 years.

In short, the sadistic horse trainer is through. “Jackie the Jerk” is done. And while it is a miracle that he escaped imprisonment due to lax federal and state laws, he will forever be known as the evil monster who proved to the world the “Big Lick” industry has a perverse belief it is necessary and thus okay to abuse an animal “if you want a blue ribbon.”

Additionally, Judge J. Weber McCraw sentenced the former Hall of Fame trainer to one year of house arrest, four more years of state probation, fined McConnell $25,000, and gave the disgraced Tennessee Walking Horse trainer the next 120 days to divest himself of any horses he owns or has interest in. “Your rarely see such an outcome for misdemeanors,” said District Attorney General Michael Dunavant. “We are pleased that justice has been served.”

The sentencing brought cheers throughout the horse industry where Tennessee is considered the epicenter of horse abuse in the world. Soring, as it is called, is rampant among scurrilous trainers of Tennessee Walking horses, who use caustic substances and so-called “action devices” to cause the animals to do the “Big Lick,”  an unnatural gait that is now nauseating to owners and riders of “sound,”  or flat-shod, Tennessee Walkers.

Two of McConnell’s associates, Jeff Dockery and Joseph Abernathy, were sentenced to four and three years of probation, respectively, in Fayette County’s Bill G. Kelley Criminal Justice Complex in Somerville. Dunavant and Assistant DA Mark Davidson skillfully kept McConnell and his two associates from asking for a diversion. All three defendants could have sought a first-time diversion under Tennessee law, which doesn’t recognize earlier guilty pleas by the three crooks in Federal Court last year.

The state sentences will run concurrently with federal sentencing after McConnell was declared a felon in Chattanooga last September. U.S. District Judge Sandy Mattice sentenced McConnell to three years of probation on federal charges and fined him $75,000 in an unrelated case while sentencing Dockery and Abernathy – who worked for McConnell at his Whittier Stables in Collierville -- to one year of probation each.

The state court in Somerville was forced to charge McConnell with misdemeanors because the heinous tape, which appalled horsemen all over the world when it was shown on “Nightline”  by ABC News last year, took place before animal abuse became a felony in the state on July 1, 2012.

McConnell was also ordered to forfeit any ownership in the animals that were confiscated when his barn was raided shortly after the undercover video was made public by the Humane Society of the United States. There is ongoing litigation by the state to seize ownership of the eight horses that were being brutalized by McConnell from the owners who had originally placed the horses with McConnell at his Whittier Stables.

McConnell’s second conviction brings further evidence that horse abuse is commonplace in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. Of 190 horses randomly tested at the Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville last August, 146 tested positive for illegal irritants.

And now another notable trainer, Larry Joe Wheelon, is facing aggravated animal abuse charges in Maryville following a raid on his barn in April. Wheelon, who also has an extensive record of violating the federal Horse Protection Act in the past, will be the first trainer to face felony charges. He and two of his associates will be arraigned on Aug. 14 after 19 of 27 horses in his care were seized by federal and state officials.

Wheelon, along with Randall Stacy Gunter, 43, of Louisville, and Brandon Lunsford, 31, of Walland, are facing one count each on felony charges, which under state law calls for no less than one year or up to five years on each conviction. Prosecutors will doubtlessly seek additional charges on Wheelon and his associates after the Blount County Grand Jury acts on the case following the August hearing. A true bill could result in a total of 19 counts – one for each horse found to be abused.

A fourth man involved with Wheelon has also been arrested in Maryville. Blake Primm, the first farrier ever to arrested for animal abuse in Tennessee, faces misdemeanor charges after the Sevier County man installed some type of painful pressure-type horse shoes on animals confiscated from Wheelon’s barn.

According to sources, the 19 animals seized from Wheelon were taken to a private location where the eight horses that McConnell tortured were already undergoing extensive rehabilitation. The sickening stacks and other torture devices have been removed from the animals and they are being cared for under the protection of the Humane Society of the United States.

At the time of his arrest, the 68-year-old Wheelon was a board member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer’s Association and headed its Ethics Committee. He was also a three-star judge and a prominent member of the East Tennessee Walking Horse Association.

But according to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, some horses in Wheelon’s barn were so badly maimed “they could hardly walk.” This was confirmed by videotape taken during the raid and it is believed laboratory analysis is “overwhelming.” Caustic substances, including mustard oil, were confiscated from the barn during the April raid.

Federal and state officials say there could be additional arrests this summer and the Humane Society is urging anyone who has knowledge of horse abuse to contact their local sheriff. As Jackie McConnell now knows, that’s finally a crime.

royexum@aol.com


Awaiting Refund From City

Excellent Care At Memorial Hospital

Marsha Blackburn’s COVID Hysteria


Since we will no longer have our recycling pick-up, I would assume that our taxes will either be reduced to reflect this action or we will receive a refund for the period that this municipal ... (click for more)

Unfortunately for me, I needed a medical procedure performed a few days ago. The doctor performing the procedure does these procedures through Memorial Hospital. The medical staff and nurses ... (click for more)

In view of Marsha Blackburn’s furtherance of the big lie, and alternative facts regarding COVID vaccination; sadly, she resides in an altered state of consciousness. She is employed, paid ... (click for more)



Opinion

Awaiting Refund From City

Since we will no longer have our recycling pick-up, I would assume that our taxes will either be reduced to reflect this action or we will receive a refund for the period that this municipal service is suspended. I will keep vigil at my mailbox anxiously anticipating my check. Thank you, Mayor Kelly. Don Howard, Hixson (click for more)

Excellent Care At Memorial Hospital

Unfortunately for me, I needed a medical procedure performed a few days ago. The doctor performing the procedure does these procedures through Memorial Hospital. The medical staff and nurses that prepared, assisted and helped me afterwards were wonderful. Very professional and courteous. I was well cared for. I realized that in a little over a month, I would not be able to ... (click for more)

Breaking News

City To Require Masks In City-Owned Buildings Amid Rising COVID-19 Infections

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly on Friday issued an executive order mandating that employees and visitors who are moving within city buildings wear facial coverings, effective Monday. Mayor Kelly’s executive order also requires that community centers remain closed indefinitely following summer camp, which ended today. The order allows temporary exceptions for vaccine drives held ... (click for more)

Judge Don W. Poole Announces Retirement

Criminal Court Judge Don W. Poole announced on Friday he will retire after serving two eight-year terms. Among those said to be interested in the post are former Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern, attorney Amanda Dunn and Boyd Patterson of the Public Defender's Office. In a letter he said, " In my mind, a lawyer can receive no greater honor than to be elected to serve as ... (click for more)

Sports

Vols' Velus Jones, Jr. Named To Paul Hornung Award Watch List

The Louisville Sports Commission announced Thursday morning that Tennessee redshirt senior wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. is one of 57 college football players selected to the watch list for the 2021 Paul Hornung Award presented by Texas Roadhouse. The Paul Hornung Award is given annually by the Louisville Sports Commission (LSC) to the most versatile player in major college ... (click for more)

UTC Announces Scrappy Switchback Program To Aid Community

Earlier this week, the Chattanooga Mocs marketing & ticketing operation announced the re-launch of the Mocs Merchants program. Today comes news of another initiative aimed at helping our community and serviced by the philanthropy of our alumni, fans and donors. The Scrappy Switchback is initiated in 2020-21. It was developed to provide Mocs fans an opportunity to give ... (click for more)