From the April 2000 Idaho Observer:

Pend Oreille trial may explain rash of county horse seizures

Several Pend Oreille county citizens attended a county commissioner's meeting April 3 to protest Sheriff Jerry Weeks' attempt to obtain more county funds to maintain his opertations. The meeting gave rise to several accusations that the Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Department is wasteful and that its officers are harassive, abusive, violent and connected with drug trafficking. The sheriff appeared defensive rather than concerned about the citizens' accusations. Weeks insisted that the accusations were baseless. Newspaper articles, court cases and affidavits from victims indicate that the accusations are not baseless. Why won't the sheriff listen to the people who pay his wages and put gas in his patrol cars?

by Don Harkins

NEWPORT -- Bob and Lynn Evenson of Usk refused to accept a plea bargain at District Court here and will be prepared to stand trial at the Pend Oreille County Courthouse May 2 over charges of cruelty to animals. The charges stem from an investigation by Pend Oreille County Sheriff's deputies Janet Reed and Dave Snipes who were allegedly responding to a cruelty complaint from a neighbor.

The trial will be of tremendous interest to horse owners in the area.

Rather than meekly allow the county to bully them and not contest the lies and false documentation that has been generated in an apparent effort to steal their registered horses, the Evensons have been extremely vocal throughout this injustice. Since they have nothing to hide and are well-known in the area as knowledgeable and compassionate horse people, the Evensons have contacted everyone they know to get support. As a result, several people have come forward with stories that indicate a pattern of abuse by county officials that result in the seizure of peoples' registered horses.

Assistant Prosecutor Michael Carbone, the prosecutor assigned to the Evenson case, agreed to meet with the Evensons, The Idaho Observer and other parties to discuss evidence that has been uncovered to indicate a conspiracy among county officers to use their authority to steal people's horses and transfer them to their “friends.”

According to the Evensons, deputies Reed and Snipes arrived at the couple's place a few days before Christmas, 1999. According to Bob Evenson, his wife has been raising horses most of her life and has never been investigated for mistreating animals and figured it must have been some kind of a mistake. With nothing to hide, the Evensons allowed the deputies to look around and see for themselves that the horses were not in any danger.

“The first words out of Snipes' mouth was, 'all of your horses are pathetic,'” said Bob.

Bob then remembers that Snipes asked if any of the horses were registered. He indicated which horses were registered by pointing. Snipes asked if the Arabian mare's foal was registered and Bob answered in the affirmative.

Deputies Reed and Snipes claim to have much experience in dealing with horses. However, experienced horse people in the area have no respect for their knowledge or expertise. In fact, we would later learn that their findings in the field that day at the Evenson place are contrary to the findings of recognized horse experts and two veterinarians.

Snipes and Reed told Bob that his 15-year old registered Arabian mare (who is nursing a foal) was underweight. Reed began scribbling hand-written notes with instructions on what to do to be in compliance with county dictates. The Evensons state that they did everything in their power to comply with the officers -- even if it was in conflict with their own experience and common sense.

Reed then told Bob that they had some friends who would give the “registered” horses a good home and wanted to know if they would consider giving them up. “We said 'no,'” Bob said.

The deputies then began to inquire into the Evenson's sources of income. They also noticed that there were three round bales of hay and ordered the Evenson's to allow their horses to eat on them 24 hours per day, seven days per week. “I tried to explain to Deputy Reed that we have five ponies that would founder if allowed to eat 24-7. At this point Reed became very aggressive and stated that she wanted to see all three bales gone within one week.

As if provoking a confrontation that would give them the authority to become more militant in their tactics, Bob remembers Snipes stating several times that he and Reed did not have the right to be on their property and that the Evensons could tell them to leave at any time. Sensing a trap, Bob asked, “Why? So you can come back with a search and seizure order?” to which Snipes reportedly replied, “That is a good possibility.”

The following week Reed and Snipes resumed their official harassment of the Evensons. “They got angry at us because all of the hay was not gone, as they had ordered. They then told us to put water heaters in all of the water tanks. We showed them the salt blocks, the grain and the barrels we kept it in.”

The Evensons had arranged to purchase more hay from Gary Driver. Deputy Snipes reportedly complained that Driver's hay was the worst hay he had ever seen. On her official report, Deputy Reed stated that, On January 5, 2000, I spoke to Gary Driver and he said that he had sold Evenson two ton of two-year-old hay and that he and Evenson had made no long range plans for hay.

“This is not true. I talked to Driver and he said that he doesn't even have any two-year-old at his place and never told Reed that he sold us two-year-old hay. We have never fed our horses moldy hay,” Lynn Evenson said.

“We found out later that Reed and Snipes would come onto our property when we were not home and snoop around without our permission. They were also parking up the road every other day just watching us,” Lynn said.

In late January the deputies told the Evensons that they were not watering their horses enough. “Even though this was not true and we described our watering system to them, we were told that it wasn't good enough. Because we were attempting within reason to do everything they asked of us, our shetland mare foundered,” Lynn explained.

According to the Evensons, on Snipes and Reed's last visit the last Monday of January, Reed wanted to lay her hands on the horses and poke them to determine their body fat. “Bob said, 'No, you can tell just by looking.' At that moment Snipes said, 'Let's go, we're through here,' and Reed said, very snidely, 'then you just enjoy the rest of your day,'” remembers Lynn.

Sensing that something bad was about to happen, the Evensons contacted their vet Brian Dockins to come out and check the horses. He was scheduled to see them February 2, and notified the sheriff's office of his pending visit. Dockins later had to cancel and reschedule for February 5.

At 7:30 a.m., February 3, 2000, deputies Snipes, Reed, Sheriff Weeks and his wife, Veterinarian Randy Tedrow and seven other people arrived at the Evensons with three horse trailers and an armada of vehicles to take the registered horses -- the Arabian mare and her foal, a buckskin mare and her foal as well as a stud colt. They also took a blind pony that the Evensons were boarding. “They went directly to our registered horses -- they were like so many locusts all over the place with cameras and videos. They passed our little shetland who was so badly foundered she could hardly walk,” said Lynn.

According to the Evensons, Sheriff Weeks was admiring their buckskin foal and commented, “my, isn't it beautiful? My God, look at the coloring of that buckskin. I would sure like to have a horse like that.”

Sheriff Weeks denies that he ever made that comment. However the Evenson's reporting of this entire abuse of public resources and official authority has been humble, honest, accurate and supported by documentation whereas the official reports are riddled with inaccuracies, contradictions and provable perjuries.

The Spokesman-Review and the Newport Miner wrote stories from official reports that made the Evensons out to be people who are cruel to animals. On February 4, 2000, the Spokesman-Review frontpaged the Evensons in the Region section under the headline, “Horses seized; pair face cruelty charge.” Under the headline was a photo of a horse that had no connection to the Evensons, but the caption read: “A half-starved, parasite-ridden mare is led into a barn north of Spokane after being impounded Thursday by Pend Oreille county.”

“The original reporter for the Spokesman was taken off the story,” commented Lynn who believed that the original reporter was “too sympathetic to us.”

Pend Oreille County Commissioner Mike Hanson came out the day following the seizure to inspect the remaining eight horses, including the little shetland who foundered at the direction of Snipes and Reed. Commissioner Hanson stated, “the sheriff's department is way out of line on this one.”

Moved back to Pend Oreille county

It turns out that the friends to which Reed referred were the Pembertons in Greenbluff, which is situated in neighboring Spokane County. It was the out-of-county Pembertons who ended up with two of the Evensons registered horses -- the Arabian mare and her foal. Video footage of the Pemberton's place show that it is a commercial operation with riding stables. The video also documents that stables at the Pemberton ranch are not nearly as well maintained as the stables at the Evensons.

There is photographic evidence to suggest that the Evenson's horses were used for commercial purposes while in the custody of the Pembertons.

The buckskin mare and her buckskin foal were taken to Ione, a stud colt was taken to a deputy's home and the blind pony was taken to Dr. Tedrow's place.

By mid-February, the Evensons had learned that two of their horses were being held at the Pemberton's place. Due to the Evenson's complaints that the Pemberton's facilities were not even as adequate as their own, the horses were moved to Ben and Karla Lawrence's place which is closer to home in Newport.

The Lawrences are extremely well-respected horse people who have been raising and training horses for over 30 years. Karla Lawrence, who had never met the Evensons prior to these events, states that she had offered her boarding services to the county and there was no reason to separate the horses and have two horses leave the county.

On February 24 deputies Snipes and Reed arrived at the Lawrences to determine if their place was suitable for relocating the Evanson's horses. Karla Lawrence, a woman who has produced two world class horses and was a 4-H horse and livestock leader for 15 years, determined that the deputies “knowledge of horses is lacking.”

Lawrence was also put out by the rude and arrogant manner with which she was treated by these two deputies and added, “I feel that the deputies need a lot more training on animals and public relations.”

While in the custody of the county, the horses have been microchipped. Possibly to justify claims that the Evensons were negligent or cruel in their treatment of the horses, unnecessary vet bills are mounting. The charges for transporting the horses throughout the region have been accumulating. Vet bills alone, including microchips at $111.84 each, are also accumulating and are nearing $2,000.

If the Evensons are found guilty of cruelty to animals, as charged by the state, they will be forced to pay these unnecessary and unsolicited bills. If the county loses, the taxpayers will pay these expenses.

Why would the county take it upon themselves to microchip somebody else's horses without their approval, knowledge or consent? Why would the county split these horses up and drive them miles away when perfectly serviceable facilities are within two miles of the sheriff's office? Why would the county send only registered horses (and one blind pony) to facilities that are arguably less decent than their real home and leave other horses behind?

Who should be on trial here?

The Evensons were in court February 16 and were told that they had a week to have an independent vet check the horses. “Michael Carbone called the owner of the blind pony we had been boarding and told her that it was Veterinarian Randy Tedrow's opinion that the pony was so bad that it had to be put down. We said, 'no,' and arranged to have a second vet, Marilyn Moyle of Idaho Veterinarian Service, take a look at her. This vet grades her horses on a scale of 1 to 5, five being the best. This pony, who was supposedly at death's door 24 hours earlier, scored a 4.5,” Lynn said as she produced the Moyle's documentation which proved that the vet had indeed scored the pony at 4.5.

The Pend Oreille County Prosecutor's Office has attempted to get the Evensons to accept a plea bargain that would force them to give up their registered horses, accept a two-year probation in exchange for the state dropping its charges against them. The deal was modified when the prosecutor's office reportedly offered to “throw in a steak.”

“If our property was so unsafe for our horses, why then did they take only the registered ones and leave the grade ones behind if they are worried about the safety factor?” asked Lynn.

Lynn believes that Pend Oreille County has a sheriff's office that is corrupt and added that people should not think that they are the only ones with horses who are subject to county harassment. “We have had calls upon calls from people telling us that they too have suffered at the hands of the Pend Oreille Sheriff's Department. We will not be the last people to have their registered horses taken for no good reason as long as we have a sheriff who stands behind the actions of his deputies no matter how inappropriate they may be,” Lynn concluded.

The case is scheduled to go to trial May 2. We recommend that you attend if you own horses or know of someone who owns horses in Pend Oreille county.

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