The remaining three defendants facing federal charges related to horse soring and other offenses pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced indictment.
Barney Davis, 39; Christen Altman, 26; and Jeffery Bradford, 33, pleaded guilty in U.S. Magistrate Bill Carter's courtroom on charges of violating the federal Horse Protection Act.
The three are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice on Feb. 13.
U.S. Attorney Steve Neff said in a prepared statement that the gaited horse industry is important to the economy and culture of Tennessee. Too many people had "acted with impunity in this arena for too long by violating the Horse Protection Act and other federal laws," he said.
In March, a federal grand jury indicted four defendants on 34 counts related to horse soring, an illegal practice in which boltlike items are driven into horses' hooves, foreign objects are attached to animal's legs or chemicals are used to produce pain and sensitivity to alter horses' gaits.
The fourth defendant, Paul Blackburn, 35, pleaded guilty on Oct. 18 to one count of conspiracy to violate the act. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 23.
In a statement, Neff said officials in the U.S. Attorney's Office hope the prosecutions deter others from committing similar crimes. He said humans have a gift of stewardship over the Earth and its creatures.
"Maiming and mutilating horses for sport and profit betrays that charge of stewardship," he said.
The four counts to which Davis pleaded guilty -- conspiracy to violate the act, conspiracy to commit witness tampering and two counts of violating the act -- were part of an amended filing that dismissed the other counts on the original 34-count indictment.
Altman, Bradford and Blackburn pleaded to one misdemeanor conspiracy charge, meaning each likely will face probation or a prison term of less than one year.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...