Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Vern Wagner Saga: Sentencing Hearing - March 26, 2013

Vern Wagner leaving the Fairplay courthouse
 after sentencing on March 26, 2013.
Hartsel cattle rancher Vern Wagner appeared before Judge Green in the Fairplay courthouse yesterday to be sentenced in the criminal trial in which he was found guilty of one count (out of four) of misdemeanor animal cruelty on Feb 1, 2013. He was found guilty of cruelty in the death of single cow, #132, of Wagner's over 1200 head, after the harsh Spring of 2011. Cow #132 was found by the Park County Animal Control dead and "dragged behind a rock".
On April 28, 2011 John Salazar, Department of Agriculture Commissioner, wrote to Judge Thom LeDoux of the 11th District that "the Department would be satisfied with one conviction of animal cruelty and restitution appropriately directed to the Park County Sheriff's Office." (Letter at the bottom of the page here.)
Wagner was sentenced to 30 days in jail (suspended) and  80 hours of community service. Restitution to the Park County Sheriff's Office (for the countless hours they must have spent persecuting Wagner over the years) was not even asked for by the prosecution. Judge Green noted that Wagner had no resources left. Having already been stripped of over $1 million worth of cattle and $2 million worth of land, Wagner himself told me "I'm broke".
Wagner also told me the story of cow #132: "While the snow was still deep, Animal Control officers scared her off the road and into a snow bank. I had to haul her out. They told me that the cow looked thin and needed to be fed. She was already finding spring grass, but I made sure she had plenty of hay and protein blocks. Five weeks later, I found her stuck in a pond marsh. Once again I had to haul her out, but she was weak from exposure and died that night with water in her lungs. I didn't get a chance to tell the story because my attorney advised me not to take the stand in my own defense."
Wagner is preparing to appeal the long string of civil cases presided over by a different judge, Judge Groome. Wagner's dealing with Groome go back 10 years, from before Groome was a Judge.
That story has yet to be told, and it answers the big question: Why on earth would Park County and it's sheriff's and animal control officers go after one law-abiding rancher with such a vengeance?
The Saga of Vern Wagner, to be continued...


  1. Anonymous7:12 AM

    This case reminds me of the young Ellicot ranch wife whose horses were taken from her land by Pikes Peak Humane Society. She was prosecuted and jailed allegedly for animal abuse to her horses, that malingered every spring when they started eating pasture grass despite all her efforts and investments to find feed that they would eat. She started hauling water. The judge allowed an expert to talk about the symptoms of Fluorosis by phone. But they did not allow the accused's collection of well water, which was tested and found to be very high in Flouride, to be allowed as evidence. She served 3 months in jail in Colorado Springs. She had five children at home, including a new born. Our tax dollars hard at work.