Equine Rescue

Montana Horse Abuser Gets Public Defender

Story by Jan Falstad of the Billings Gazzette

Leachman Too Cheap To Pay For Own Defense

Jim Leachman of the Leachman Cattle Co., and the Hairpin Cavvy, a horse breeding operation, talks with Yellowstone County Public Defender Roberta Drew ~ photo by David Grubbs

Six days after paying $35,000 to buy 66 horses, James Leachman of Billings appeared in Justice Court on Tuesday represented at taxpayers’ expense by a Yellowstone County public defender.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito has charged Leachman with multiple misdemeanor counts of animal abuse for allegedly starving some horses and failing to adjust or remove plastic leg bands. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts, which together carry a maximum penalty of seven years and a $7,000 fine.

Leachman was rebuffed in his first request for a public defender, but Friday he formally reapplied, saying that all of his property is burdened with mortgages and liens, “rendering it of no value.”

David Duke, who manages the public defender’s office, initially refused to take the case but received a court order.

“We will continue to honor that order, but we understand that Judge (Pedro) Hernandez will formally review that decision,” Duke said.

Hernandez was ill Tuesday and didn’t attend the scheduled appearance in advance of Leachman’s jury trial set for June 3.

Public Defender Roberta Drew represented Leachman and asked for more time to review his case.

Last month, the Bureau of Indian Affairs confiscated hundreds of Leachman’s quarter horses for trespassing on Crow Tribal lands on the Home Place Ranch 16 miles east of Billings. The BIA sold 804 of the horses on April 2 and 3 at a public auction attended by people from across the country and Canada.

But the dispute over trespassing horses may not be over.

During the auction, Leachman’s son, Seth Leachman, bought back 63 of his father’s horses. Three days later, James Leachman paid the $35,000 bill, but Seth Leachman refused to say Tuesday where the family got the money.

All the other buyers hauled their horses off the ranch, but the Leachmans just opened the corral gates and turned them loose onto unfenced land they have leased from the Crow Tribe.

“The 800 acres in the allotment are in three pastures,” Seth Leachman said Tuesday.

Leachman’s company, the Leachman Cattle Co., used to own the Home Place Ranch but lost the land to a neighboring ranching family, the Stovalls, at a federal foreclosure sale last July. Leachman has until July to come up with the money to reclaim the ranch.

Seth Leachman said they won’t fence off their acres and he wouldn’t say when the lease expires. Under Montana’s open range law, landowners, in this case the Stovalls, are responsible for fencing out other people’s livestock. But the reservation’s mix of Crow and private land complicates all the legal issues.

If the Leachman horses wander again there are only 66, not 800 horses, to deal with, said BIA Regional Director Ed Parisian, who said he only has jurisdiction over land owned by the Crow Tribe and individual members.

“If Stovall feels he’s being trespassed, it’s not our issue,” he said. “But we’re not back to square one. The horses have feed, they are on a legal lease. The issue is they aren’t fenced.”

The BIA grossed $380,365 at the auction nearly two weeks ago. The costs of the roundup and the sale have been tallied, but Parisian said BIA attorneys advised him Monday not to release the numbers at this point.

Click (HERE) to Comment at Billings Gazette

20 replies »

  1. It will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds in court. I will be very surprised if he gets anything more than a slap on the wrist…


  2. This man should be in jail ( bread & water would be too much ) and kept in jail and for surely should NEVER be allowed to have animals .


  3. Situations like this make me mad. The system is so broken, this guy should not be able to buy back some of these horses with money that should be going for the care of the horses he abandoned. And he wanted a public defender? I can see that he would probably get a small fine and slap on the wrist.


  4. I would like to know the costs of the round-up and sale:

    The BIA grossed $380,365 at the auction nearly two weeks ago. The costs of the roundup and the sale have been tallied, but Parisian said BIA attorneys advised him Monday not to release the numbers at this point.


  5. He had tagged those horses about 2 years ago and when he realized he was not going to get what he wanted he just left them tagged, shameful


  6. The sons have cattle businesses up the yin yang and they can carry Dad just fine. But their money should not buy him out of this trouble… maybe he thinks it will.


  7. The really unfortunate part of these “types” of situations is that the horses suffer no matter what happens to the person/persons involved. The law can’t come down hard enough on these people as far as I’m concerned. I’m sick and tired of these people hiding behind laws that are not strict enough. Laws need to make offenders feel as if they are offenders not feel that this is a temporary slap on the wrist where they can go merrily on their way after it’s all over.


  8. Oh that’s great! Just open the gate at the auction and let the horses to run free again unchecked. Soon the herd will grow again and they will have the same problem. What a bunch of stupids out there!


  9. Seems we, as tax payers, are oft “damned if we do and damned if we don’t” – everyone should get a fair defense….I just kinda resent having to “foot the bill” to defend any animal abuser….maybe that’s a hard-hearted thing to say, but I’m just sayin’. . . if he could find the money to buy back some 63 horses from his son, why doesn’t that same son foot the lawyer’s bill?


  10. Is there no real Justice here???????? If this man cant aford a defence , he has absolutely no buiness purchaseing the very animals he abused, Geeze are they all idoits……………………………………With no conception of what this abuser did and why he is on trial????????????


  11. May update on Leachman. He now faces another criminal criminal charge. Only a misdemeanor, but this guy is determined to flaut the law!

    “… a Montana Department of Livestock agent issued James Leachman a misdemeanor citation for allowing a stallion to run free at the same property. State law states that it is “unlawful for any owner … of any stallion, ridgeling, unaltered male mule, or jackass over the age of 1 year to permit or suffer such animal to run at large on the open range.

    “The criminal offense carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine.

    “A spokesman for the Department of Livestock said the citation was issued because Leachman has unfenced lease property at his former ranch and horses are leaving the property. Leachman lost the ranch a year ago in a federal foreclosure sale.”



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