CHATTANOOGA, TN—Jackie L. McConnell, 60, of Collierville, Tennessee, was sentenced today, September 18, 2012, by the Honorable Harry S. Mattice, U.S. District Judge, to serve three years on probation, during which time he is required to report any ownership or interaction with horses; pay a fine in the amount of $75,000; and perform 300 hours of public service to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additionally, he was ordered by the court to write and publish an article on horse soring practices, including the effects on the horses, the different methods of soring, and how widespread it is in the industry.
McConnell pleaded guilty in May 2012 to charges contained in a federal indictment relating to conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act. In addition to his term of probation, the trailer McConnell owned and used to transport the sored horses was forfeited to the United States as part of the plea agreement.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes cases and enforces the law as it is written. As presently constituted, the defendant’s acts of soring the horses are not themselves federal crimes. They are misdemeanors under state animal cruelty laws. The defendant committed federal misdemeanor offenses when he conspired to transport the sored horses and enter them into nationwide competitions. He committed federal felony offenses when he instructed others to falsify horses’ entry paperwork at the shows to indicate that someone other than the defendant was the actual trainer of a horse. He did this to shield himself from scrutiny as a result of having been disqualified from training and entering horses into competition by administrative sanctions of the USDA. This five-year administrative disqualification stemmed from the defendant’s numerous previous violations of the Horse Protection Act,” said U.S. Attorney William C. Killian.
In his plea agreement on file with the U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, McConnell admitted to conspiring with others to violate the Horse Protection Act in various ways. At all times relevant to the charges in the indictment, he was on suspension from entering horses into shows. Nevertheless, he continued to train horses by soring, transporting, entering, and showing them at horse shows while on suspension. He trained horses using illegal soring methods such as the application of banned chemicals to the horses’ pasterns, which caused painful burning to their legs. McConnell then arranged for them to be taken to the shows, where he stayed on the grounds outside the warm-up areas, as required due to his disqualified status, and directed others how to show the horse. At the shows, he submitted entry paperwork which falsely stated that someone else was the trainer of the sored horses. He took steps to camouflage the damage to the horses by instructing others to apply magic markers and other masking devices to the horses’ legs prior to inspection. Additional information regarding this case is contained in the United States’ Sentencing Memorandum on file with the U.S. District Court.
The case arose from an undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States, which resulted in the creation of evidence instrumental to the case. The USDA Office of Inspector General and Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the follow-up investigation, including the execution of search warrants at McConnell’s temporary stables in Shelbyville and his barn in Collierville during the 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven S. Neff and M. Kent Anderson represented the United States.
U.S. Attorney Killian commended Special Agent Julie McMillan, U.S. Department of Agriculture, for her initiative, persistence, and diligence in investigating and highlighting this problem to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Her performance and the excellent work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steve Neff and Kent Anderson, he said, resulted in this conviction, sentence, and forfeiture. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute cases involving violations of the Horse Protection Act as we do in other areas of federal law. The impact in these cases has been far beyond any level that we might have imagined,” added U.S. Attorney Killian.