- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

KEOKUK, Iowa (AP) - A district court judge says the Lee County Sheriff’s Office erred in its seizure of 37 horses from a southeast Iowa farm and the department must return them to their owner, who still faces charges of animal neglect.

The ruling Wednesday in South Lee County District Court by Judge Mary Ann Brown means the horses must be sent back to Jeffrey Lee Graber, the Burlington Hawk Eye reported (https://bit.ly/MR2Kgb ). The animals were taken from a rural Donnellson farm in January.

Brown ruled deputies failed to use proper procedures when removing the horses. They followed procedures used when seizing property in criminal cases, instead of procedures used in rescuing neglected livestock.

It’s unclear when the horses will be back in Graber’s possession. Some were adopted by rescue facilities in Iowa and surrounding states such as Illinois and Missouri.

Lee County Sheriff Jim Sholl said the ruling was based on procedural errors and he does not regret removing the horses.

Graber, 55, faces three counts of livestock neglect and improperly disposing of an animal carcass in connection to an investigation by the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and other agencies. He was briefly arrested in early January following a search of two properties. Authorities say animals on the properties lacked necessary sustenance and care.

The 37 horses at the Donnellson farm were removed several weeks later.

A trial date for Graber in North Lee County District Court has not been scheduled. Court records do not list an attorney for him.


Information from: The Hawk Eye, https://www.thehawkeye.com

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