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Jackie L. McConnell, Jeff Dockery, John Mays, and Joseph Abernathy Indicted for Violations of the Horse Protection Act

CHATTANOOGA, TN—A federal grand jury in Chattanooga, Tennessee returned a 52-count indictment on February 29, 2012 against Jackie L. McConnell, 60, of Collierville, Tennessee; Jeff Dockery, 54, of Collierville, Tennessee; John Mays, 50, of Collierville, Tennesee; and Joseph R. Abernathy, 30, of Olive Branch, Mississippi; for conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act and Substantive Horse Protection Act violations. No trial date has been set.

The indictment on file with the U.S. District Court in Chattanooga alleges that all four individuals conspired to violate the Horse Protection Act by applying prohibited substances, such as mustard oil, to the pastern area of Tennessee Walking Horses to sore them in order to produce an exaggerated gait in the show ring. The conspiracy is alleged to have begun in 2006 in the Eastern District of Tennessee and elsewhere, and continued through September 2011. The conspiracy count of the indictment sets forth in some detail the methods allegedly employed to sore horses, train them not to react to pain in their feet by causing pain elsewhere, and otherwise mask the evidence of the soring efforts.

The documents filed with the court allege that the substantive violations occurred at the annual National Walking Horse Trainers Show held in March 2011 in Shelbyville Tennessee; at the Spring Fun Show held in May 2011 in Shelbyville, Tennessee; and at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in August and September 2011.

If convicted, all defendants face a maximum term of three years in prison for each felony count and up to one year in prison for each misdemeanor.

This indictment is the result of an investigation by Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven S. Neff and Assistant United States Attorney M. Kent Anderson will represent the United States.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment constitutes only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

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