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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Kankey loses bid to supress key evidence in animal cruelty cases

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Over 100 horses were rescued from the Kankey Farm in Viola in December of 2010. Photo by Richard Irby
Circuit Court Judge Tim Weaver has ruled a December 2010 search warrant used to seize more than 100 horses from the Rodney Kankey farm was valid.

As a result, Animal Cruelty charges against Kankey were set for trial December 3, 2011.

Kankey's Attorney John Russo argued in a June 23 hearing that evidence gathered against Kankey should be suppressed, because the search warrant was "defective all the way through and rules of criminal procedure were violated."

According to Russo, the affidavit asking a judge to sign a search warrant lists Kankey's home address, while the horses seized were actually on a barn lot and in pastures with a different address. Russo also claimed, since the affidavit provided no facts showing Kankey had violated a law, District Judge Jim Short erred in signing it.

Prosecutor Dwayne Plumlee admitted there was at least one flaw in the affidavit. While the document correctly lists Kankey's name and home address, the names of two people not involved in the case were incorrectly listed because of a "cut and paste" computer error.

Plumlee told the judge "inexperienced" police officers could have been more "articulate," but they were not guilty of misconduct. According to Plumlee, officers sought the warrant in good faith, "after observing the terrible conditions the horses were under."

More than 100 neglected horses were discovered by Deputy Sheriff Lance Gray on Dec. 7, 2010, when he responded to a report of horses running free on Highway 62 in front of Kankey's farm. While investigating the complaint, Gray saw two dead horses and "skinny and sick horses" in a barn lot with no visible food or water.

The Sheriff's Department asked the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States to get involved. The horses received food and medical treatment and were eventually moved to an emergency shelter in Mountain Home. Kankey was later charged with five felony counts of Aggravated Cruelty to a Horse and 113 misdemeanor counts of Cruelty to Animals.

After hearing arguments regarding the legality or fatal flaws in the search warrant, Judge Weaver went into his chambers to review case law attorneys had submitted to him.

After about an hour of deliberation, the judge observed that while the affidavit seeking the warrant was "not the best I ever read," it did include the name of the property owner and address of the property to be searched, as well as details about the emergency conditions that necessitated a search warrant.

Judge Weaver went on to say, the affidavit was "sufficient to apprise the magistrate what was being sought."

By upholding the search warrant, the evidence gathered can be used by prosecutors and the cruelty cases against Kankey can continue.

The June 23 hearing was the first action in several months in cases against Kankey. Court proceedings had been on hold until the results of a court ordered mental evaluation were known.

On April 25, a psychologist for the Department of Human Services filed his findings. According to Dr. William Cochran, "the Defendant (Kankey) is competent to proceed to trial in this cause and has the ability to assist in the preparation and conduct of his own defense."

In addition to the Animal Cruelty cases, Kankey faces criminal charges for assault and terroristic threatening.

A September 13 trial date has been set for those cases.

Kankey and the animal protection organizations are also involved in a civil legal battle over whether the horses can be adopted out or Kankey should regain ownership.

The ASPCA and Humane Society have also filed suit seeking a court order forcing Kankey to pay the cost of caring for the horses. At least $200,000 is being sought.

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