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Soring sentence includes order to write article for T-G

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writing a newspaper article about his crimes is part of the punishment given to one of four people who pleaded guilty last year to soring horses.

Paul Blackburn, 36, of Shelbyville received a year of probation and a $1,000 fine for conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act and substantive violations of the act.

But U.S. District Judge Harry S. Mattice also ordered Blackburn to write an article describing horse soring methods used in the gaited horse community, the effects soring has on the animals, and the scope of horse soring in the industry.

Local coverage

Mattice ordered Blackburn to write the article "to be published in his community newspaper," which would be the Shelbyville Times-Gazette.

Blackburn was indicted last April in a 34-count superseding indictment, along with Barney Davis, 38, and Jeffery Bradford, 33, both of Lewisburg, and Christen Altman, 25, of Shelbyville, who had all been the subject of a federal indictment a month before.

Davis faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine and Altman and Bradford each face a term of up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine. Sentencing for the three has been set for Feb. 27.

The indictment was the result of a seven-month investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG) Agent Julie McMillian.

Rare HPA convictions

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, the case of the four, along with a case involving Chris Zahnd in the Middle District of Tennessee, "are the first two criminal prosecutions of Horse Protection Act violations in approximately 20 years."

"The crime committed by the individual in this conspiracy is an example of a wide-spread problem in the equine industry that gives unfair and illegal advantage to some competitors over others, in addition to causing cruelty to the animals," U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said. "This issue has our attention and we will continue to pursue violators of the Horse Protection Act to assure fairness in competition and to protect the welfare of the horses that are symbol of our state."

Indictment

The indictment stated from 2002 to October 2010, Davis and the three conspired to sore the horses and falsify documents without being detected by the USDA and industry inspectors (Designated Qualified Persons) so that additional customers would pay Davis to board and train their horses at his barn.

Davis was taken into custody by federal marshals last July for allegedly violating the terms of his bond, which barred him from having any contact with horses owned by other people, including training those horses.

Editor's note: The T-G has not been contacted by the judge regarding this case.