Defense asks to have judgment set aside

Sentencing in Jefferson County animal cruelty case moved to Nov. 8

PORT TOWNSEND — The defense attorney for a Chimacum man convicted of animal cruelty has asked a judge to set aside the judgment in the case.

Jack Range argued Friday in Jefferson County Superior Court that the state failed to prove all of the elements of first-degree animal cruelty after prosecutors didn’t specify one of them in jury instructions.

A jury found Denver Lee Shoop, 73, guilty of eight counts of first-degree animal cruelty following a four-day trial that concluded Oct. 10. Each charge carries a maximum of 15 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Eight emaciated bison were removed from Shoop’s property in April 2018 and rehabilitated at several locations, including Center Valley Animal Rescue in Quilcene.

The bison have since been moved to a permanent sanctuary at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, southeast of Dallas.

A mistrial was declared Feb. 11 when the jury deadlocked on all eight counts. County prosecutors chose to retry the case.

Sentencing for Shoop was scheduled for this coming Friday, but Judge Keith Harper continued the date to Nov. 8. That’s also the time he plans to rule on the motion to arrest judgment.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Julie St. Marie argued it should be denied because the issues in the motion were not raised during the trial.

Range, of Jefferson Associated Counsel, filed the motion Oct. 18 and stated the trial record lacks substantial evidence that the bison were dehydrated and suffocated.

He cited a 2013 case, State v. Peterson, that concluded starvation, dehydration and suffocation are alternative means to commit first-degree animal cruelty.

“Where the information and jury instructions do not specify the means by which the defendant was found to have committed the offense, the state is required to show that it introduced substantial evidence to support convictions based on all the included alternatives,” Range’s argument stated.

St. Marie’s response stated Range didn’t ask the court to specify those instructions to the jury, and she said he didn’t object to a lack of such an instruction. She also wrote that Range didn’t ask for a motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence after the state rested its case.

“Having sat on his hands and failed to preserve claimed error at trial with respect to jury instructions, defense counsel’s Motion to Arrest Judgment must be denied,” St. Marie wrote.

She added the motion would apply only when evidence is “insufficient to prove a material element of the crime.”

“That is not the case here,” St. Marie wrote.

“We’ve got a jury verdict, and it’s never going to be reversed,” she said in court on Friday.

Range also said he’s working with a mitigation specialist prior to the sentencing hearing to submit materials for prosecutors to consider.

“The state is not interested in mitigation,” St. Marie answered. “The chance for Mr. Shoop to mitigate was to negotiate a good-faith settlement.”

St. Marie said the standard range for the concurrent sentence is 0-365 days in jail. Mitigation generally occurs when there is a negotiation to settle for an exceptional sentence below the standard range, she said.

Range asked to push the sentencing out toward the end of November to allow the specialist time to prepare a packet, prompting St. Marie to say she would need time to respond.

“When is this going to end?” St. Marie asked.

Harper refused to put off sentencing beyond Nov. 8.

“This is going to be the end of it, OK?” he said.

Harper said part of his reasoning to continue the decision on the motion to Nov. 8 was because he had read case citations submitted by the defense but had not yet studied the information prosecutors submitted.

“This particular motion raises an issue pertaining to a Constitutional right,” he said. “If it’s not raised in this courtroom, it can still be raised on appeal.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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