Palmer guilty of horses at large

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Seventh District Judge Leo Boothe convicted Debbie Palmer on three counts of horses at large and found her not guilty on three others.

All six charges stemmed from incidents in which any number of the estimated 50 horses under Palmer&8217;s care got free from her pastures and made their way onto neighbors&8217; or public highways.

Where the horses roamed was the central issue of the trial. The statute Assistant District Attorney Andy Magoun prosecuted Palmer under, Louisiana Revised Statute 3:2803, states that livestock may not roam on public highways.

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The three guilty verdicts came from incidents on U.S. 65/84 &8212; two, one of which ended with an SUV hitting and killing a horse on Jan. 8 &8212; and on Louisiana 3219.

But it says nothing about private property, and Palmer&8217;s attorney, Paul Lempke, argued the complaints of her neighbors was a civil matter.

Boothe, after nearly five hours of testimony and argument that lasted until nearly 9 p.m., didn&8217;t agree or disagree about that but did find the charges not to fit the statute.

The trial was supposed to also encompass 10 charges of cruelty to animals and one of simple criminal damage to property, but time constraints led Magoun to move to sever the roaming charges.

The remaining charges will be tried on May 24, at which time Palmer will be sentenced for her Wednesday convictions.

Magoun and Lempke indicated to Boothe they would be willing to have Palmer forfeit her $1,500 bond in lieu of a fine. The statute provides no provision for jail time.

Magoun could decide to add an additional 42 cruelty counts to the 10 Palmer already faces. That&8217;s the number of horses Concordia Parish Sheriff&8217;s deputies seized from Palmer last week after a warrant was issued.

Lisa Smith and Lyn Latimer, the parish&8217;s animal control officers, said anyone interested in providing foster care to the seized horses should contact the Concordia Animal Welfare Shelter at (318) 757-2297.