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Soring suspect seeks delay in court date

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Shelbyville woman accused of soring horses, money laundering and wire fraud is asking a federal judge for more time to prepare her defense.

Christen Altman, 25, of Shelbyville filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga asking to declare the case against her as "complex litigation" and is requesting a continuance in the matter, which is set for trial on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

According to an order by U.S. Magistrate Judge William B. Mitchell Carter, any plea bargaining in the case must be completed and executed by July 26.

Altman was indicted by a federal grand jury in March, along with Barney Davis, 38, and Jeffery Bradford, 33, both of Lewisburg, for allegedly soring horses and falsifying entry forms and other related paperwork.

However, a 34-count superseding indictment filed in late April charged Paul Blackburn, 35, of Shelbyville with being part of the conspiracy, and Davis and Altman were charged with 13 counts of wire fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy and 12 counts of money laundering.

Altman's attorney, Jerry H. Summers of Chattanooga, stated in filings late last week that numerous individuals will need to be interviewed, "with many of them likely to be called as witnesses."

Summers wrote that the government has been investigating the case for nearly a year with multiple agencies and that Altman "cannot possibly be ready to present her defense without additional time for defense investigation in this case."

The attorney also stated that the nature of the prosecution "is a somewhat unusual case and presents novel issues," adding that charging a conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act "are rare in this district."

"It would be unreasonable to expect that counsel could be ready for trial in August 2011, after only having had discovery for a few months, when the government has had perhaps a year or more under which it has conducted an investigation with all the powers of the federal government," Summers wrote.

Case history

Bradford is already being held without bond in Marshall County on a warrant for failure to appear. Federal court documents have stated that Bradford remains in custody, while the other three are free on bond.

The indictment alleges that from 2002 to October 2010, Davis, Altman, Bradford and Blackburn "and others known and unknown" conspired to sore the horses and falsify documents.

According to the indictment, the object of the conspiracy was to sore horses without being detected by the USDA and Designated Qualified Persons so that additional customers would pay Davis to board and train their horses at his barn.

DQPs are inspectors who check horses competing in shows for evidence of soring.

The indictment states that on or about Oct. 1 and 2, 2010, after Davis received a lifetime ban from participating in horse shows, he allegedly entered horses he was paid to train at the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders and Exhibitors' Association Fall Show in Shelbyville.

On or about Oct, 2, 2010, Altman, Davis and Blackburn allegedly falsely listed Blackburn as the trainer for the horse, Silver Dollar Son, also known as "Silver Dollar Sun," on the entry paperwork for the SSHBEA Annual Fall Show.

Blackburn allegedly received a DQP citation for Silver Dollar Son for "being unilaterally sore during inspection" and the indictment also says that Davis falsely claimed that Bradford was scheduled to participate and act as a trainer in the July 30, 2010 Manchester horse show on behalf of Davis. Bradford also allegedly made the same false claims.

The indictment also alleges that on Nov. 9, 2010, Altman and Blackburn endorsed a winnings check from SSHBEA for "sweepstakes," payable to Blackburn and deposited the check into Davis' bank account.

In May, Carter ordered Altman to stay away from a witness in the case, due to a report from U. S. Probation Officer Kevin Matherly that stated she and codefendant Davis had contacted a cooperating witness.

"The witness does not wish to have any contact with any named defendant in this case and stated they are fearful of them," Matherly wrote.

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