Legal proceedings against a local farmer charged with animal mistreatment ended with a plea deal.
Tim Pearson, 64, of Park Rapids was charged in 2019 with a gross misdemeanor count of exposing animals to disease, a gross misdemeanor count of overwork/mistreatment of animals and a misdemeanor count of overwork/mistreatment of animals.
The charges were based on a 2018 investigation by the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, during which a visiting veterinarian, Dr. Alan F. Olander, found evidence of lame and diseased cattle and horses.
According to a petition to enter a guilty plea, filed May 28 in the Ninth Judicial District Court in Hubbard County, Pearson entered an Alford plea on the third count. An Alford plea has the same effect as a guilty plea, except the defendant does not admit guilt.
In the petition, Pearson pleaded to the charge as a petty misdemeanor, which is a prohibited offense that does not constitute a crime and carries a maximum sentence of a $300 fine.
Pearson stated in the petition that if the case went to trial, state’s witnesses would testify to conditions on his ranch that violated the law. These alleged conditions included a bull that had difficulty standing due to front leg injuries; a horse with an open wound on its rear leg, on which an employee had used a pressure washer; and cows with Johne’s disease, a wasting illness.
The petition acknowledged that based on this evidence, an impartial jury would find Pearson guilty of the third count and hold him liable for his employee’s conduct, which inflicted unjustifiable injury on the horse.
Based on a plea agreement with the state, Pearson accepted the sentence of a $100 fine.
County Attorney Jonathan Frieden confirmed that Pearson’s Alford plea was accepted, the other two charges were dismissed and the file was closed after Pearson’s sentencing.
Pearson’s attorney, Michael Undem of Walker, was contacted but declined to comment.