CRIME

Animal Activists Plead Guilty In Turkey Theft; Alleged Ringleaders To Face Trial

Oct 24, 2018, 9:54 PM | Updated: Oct 25, 2018, 10:59 am

SANPETE COUNTY, Utah – Three animal activists from California pleaded guilty Wednesday to reduced misdemeanor charges involving a break-in at a Sanpete County turkey farm last year.

The burglary and theft of a turkey spread across the internet last November, in a video posted by the activists in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, alleging animal cruelty at the farm. Two other defendants appear headed to a trial, in a community where agriculture is the lifeblood of the local economy.

“We are united in our cause, but three of the defendants did take advantage of an offer that was provided by the prosecutor,” said Wayne Hsuing, who along with Paul Picklesimer, still face felony burglary and theft charges.

“We exercise our legal right to rescue animals who are suffering from criminal animal cruelty,” Hsuing added.

It’s a high-profile case in Sanpete County that has the full attention of the prosecutor.

“This is a case that is important to Sanpete County. The turkey industry is vital to the economy here,” said Kevin Daniels, the county attorney.

While the activists from California argue their actions are protected by free speech, the prosecutor says breaking into the farm and stealing the turkey, was against the law and their video will make it easy to prove in court.

“I am a huge believer of free speech, but you have to do it within the bounds of the law. If they break into somebody’s property and steal something, that absolutely violates the law and we will hold them accountable,” Daniels added.

Those who took the plea in abeyance in Sanpete County will pay a $400 fee. The case against them will be dismissed in three years, as long as they don’t break the law. The same defendants agreed to a similar deal Tuesday in Beaver County, where they were prosecuted for breaking into a hog farm.

The trial for Hsuing and Picklesimer in the turkey case, will likely take place next summer.

“Americans everywhere are caring about animal cruelty and food safety. This isn’t just a California issue, it is a Utah issue. It is a Sanpete County issue, and I believe in the people of Utah. I think if we get a chance to fairly present our case, we will be acquitted,” Hsuing said.

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Animal Activists Plead Guilty In Turkey Theft; Alleged Ringleaders To Face Trial