Court memos about the man who beat a horse on hidden-camera video and ignited a Tennessee walking horse and animals rights firestorm offer very different views of the former hall-of-fame horse trainer who will be sentenced here Tuesday in federal court.
The defense document, filed Thursday, quotes friends and family letters to depict Jackie McConnell as a pillar of his Collierville, Tenn., community.
A federal prosecutors memo, filed last week, shows him as a repeat violator of the Horse Protection Act who continued to sore horses even while on a five-year federal license suspension.
McConnell, 59, was charged earlier this year in a 52-count indictment charging that he and his stable hands sored horses while training them to use the "big-lick" step in their gait. He pleaded guilty to falsifying documents -- the only charge that was a felony.
Horse soring -- abusing a horse with acids, chains and foreign objects in their shoes or pads -- in itself is not currently even a crime federally. But transporting a sored horse for a show or sale is a misdemeanor. And falsifying a show form by saying someone else was the trainer because McConnell was on suspension for past soring was a felony.
Last week, U.S. Attorney Steve Neff used his sentencing memorandum to the judge to indicate McConnell actually should receive a tougher penalty than what federal law and guidelines allow. Since that is not possible, Neff called for the maximum five-year probation period and a maximum fine of $250,000.
On Thursday, defense attorneys Hugh J. Moore Jr. and Tom Greenholtz said the government simply wants "to redeem itself" from criticism. And they said McConnell has suffered enough.
"The fact that Mr. McConnell's case has been the subject of extensive public criticism of the government does not justify the excessive fines," defense attorneys wrote.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Harry S. Mattice will decide.