Attorney for Larry Joe Wheelon of Maryville says stable raid warrant invalid - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 41 Old 08-15-2013, 02:24 PM
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Here's an article from the Maryville Daily

Soring hearing proceeds: Judge clears search warrant for raid on Larry Wheelon’s Maryville horse stables

By Iva Butler | (
A judge denied a motion to suppress the search warrant that led to the April 18 raid on Larry Wheelon Stables and began hearing testimony Wednesday in a preliminary hearing.

Larry Joe Wheelon, 68, Miracle Drive, Maryville, a long-time Tennessee Walking Horse trainer and owner, is charged with one count of aggravated cruelty to animals.

The charge involves a horse named She’s a Sweeper.
Blount County General Sessions Court Judge Robert L. Headrick ruled that Larry Wheelon Stables, located at 2742 Tuckaleechee Pike, Maryville, was a business and thus was open to the public.

In his motion to throw out the search warrant, Rob White, the attorney for Wheelon, had argued that the stable was private property and that U.S. Department of Agriculture Special Agent Julie McMillan had no right to enter the premises on April 17 without permission.

The preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is probable cause to send the case to a Blount County grand jury.

Under questioning by Blount Assistant District Attorney General Ellen Berez, McMillan testified that she went to the barn undercover after receiving information and photographs from confidential informants that soring was being practiced on the horses.

White argued again, as he had when seeking the search warrant suppression motion, that McMillan is not an expert because she has had no formal training on soring. However, the judge allowed her to testify on what she observed.

Soring is the illegal process of applying caustic chemicals, such as kerosene or mustard oil, to the horse’s legs; the leg is then covered with plastic and a leg wrap for several days to allow the chemicals to penetrate the skin. Duct tape is used to keep the covers in place.

Tennessee Walking Horses are gaited horses and soreness causes them to step higher, with the aim of producing a high step called the Big Lick for horse competitions.

McMillan said she knows of “no legitimate purpose for cellophane wraps.”

Saw legs wrapped
McMillan testified when she parked at the barn, she was met near the wide-open doors by Wheelon employee Tony Hughes. She said she inquired about an adjacent rental house and said if she rented the dwelling that she would want to board her horses at Wheelon Stables.
Hughes showed her around the stables, where the three or four horses she observed eating in stalls all had cellophane, cotton wraps and duct tape on their legs, she said.

“The barn was pretty much full from what I could tell,” she testified.
McMillian testified that she saw nothing else in the barn to cause her interest.

She then obtained a search warrant for the stables, which was conducted April 18.

White argued that McMillan said that Wheelon treats the horses in a “depraved and sadistic manner” and yet left the horses with Wheelon until April 25 when a second raid was conducted and the horses seized.
McMillan said the horses could not be seized until an arrest was made, and her agency does not do the arrests. Instead, the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals is by law the agency charged with seizing the animals.

Blount County Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, with financial backing from the Humane Society of the United States, seized 19 of the 27 animals in the barn that were deemed to have signs of soring.

Horses moved again
The horses were taken to an undisclosed location, which turned out to be a farm in Crossville, and have since been moved to another undisclosed farm after the owners found out where the horses were being kept. It took until the early morning hours of April 26 before all 19 horses were moved to Crossville.

White questioned McMillan about whether she threatened Wheelon employee Tony Hughes that he might be facing obstruction of justice charges if he did not provide information. McMillan said she talked a lot about Hughes but denied making such threats.

She said, however, she did make those threats to his girlfriend’s mother.
The preliminary hearing is to resume at 1:30 p.m. today. Thee are several other witnesses that Berez and White intend to call to testify.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
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post #12 of 41 Old 08-15-2013, 06:07 PM
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From the Maryville Daily Times:

Aggravated cruelty to animals case against Wheelon dismissed

From Staff Reports
A charge of aggravated cruelty to animals against Larry Joe Wheelon, 68, of Maryville, is dismissed Thursday.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
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post #13 of 41 Old 08-15-2013, 10:00 PM Thread Starter
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sick! I didn't catch all of it. Busy day but something about the expert witness for the prosecution being in the courtroom when he wasn't supposed to be.
A technicality.
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post #14 of 41 Old 08-15-2013, 10:25 PM
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Same 'ole BS. The good ole boy network works again!!
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post #15 of 41 Old 08-15-2013, 10:47 PM
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From another source, it appears that an official from the Office of Inspector General, U.S.D.A., who was in the courtroom, allowed a U.S.D.A. vet, who was to testify, to remain in the courtroom after all witnesses were ordered to leave. It is customary in TN Criminal Courts that witnesses are not allowed to hear each others's testimony. The presence of this witness tainted the prosecution's case and dismissal was the result.

This is an appalling "rookie" mistake. The U.S.D.A. OIG guy should reamed, steamed, and dry cleaned for being so incredibly stupid. Sadly, it's your Federal Dollars At Work.

I don't know what, if anything, can be done to continue the prosecution.

Personally, I don't see "skullduggery," only stupidity on the part of a Federal official.

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post #16 of 41 Old 08-16-2013, 05:14 AM Thread Starter
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post #17 of 41 Old 08-16-2013, 05:26 AM Thread Starter
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It could be the good old boy network. Apparently the witness arrived late to court and somebody invited him inside.
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post #18 of 41 Old 08-16-2013, 06:28 PM
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Are the Feds really this stupid?

It sure looks like a case of good ole boy hometown advantage to me......

From the Maryville Daily Times:

Horse soring case against Larry Wheelon dismissed: Judge disallows testimony of key prosecution witness

By Iva Butler | (
A judge dismissed charges of aggravated animal cruelty against Larry Joe Wheelon late Thursday after a mistake with a prosecution witness.
Wheelon, 68, Miracle Drive, Maryville, is a longtime Tennessee Walking Horse trainer and owner in Blount County who was charged with abuse April 25 after a raid on his stables.

“I had a good man behind me, (attorney) Rob White,” Wheelon said after the verdict.
The owners of some of the 19 horses seized in the raid were present for the preliminary hearing. They were jubilant with the verdict and were anxious for their horses to be returned.
“This is great for the Walking Horse industry,” said one owner, Dwight Brooks, of Rogersville.

“Justice was served,” said Eugene Condry, a former Maryville High School teacher. “This reminds me of Nazi Germany ... the way these horses were seized.”

“It’s good to see the 4th and 5th amendments to be Constitution being upheld and due process of law being achieved,” added Tom Garren, a pharmacist for 35 years from Monroe County.

Farrell Hughes said he has known Wheelon for 46 years and had two horses seized in the raid. “I’d love to get the horses back just like they were,” he said.

An apparent breakdown in communication among federal agents led to the dismissal of the case by Blount County General Sessions Judge Robert L. Headrick.

The essential witness was U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinary medical officer Dr. Bart Sutherland, of Washington, D.C., who performed the testing and palpitated the horses for soreness on the day of the raid.
He was not allowed to testify because he accidentally sat in the courtroom for 30 minutes during testimony.

Headrick did the daily swearing-in at the beginning of the hearing at 2 p.m. and invoked the rule that called for witnesses to wait outside and not hear other testimony in the case.

At that time Sutherland was flying in from Mississippi. When he arrived at the Justice Center, Sutherland said a special agent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Karen Wilcox, indicated for him to enter the courtroom.

She is the supervisor of Special Agent Julie McMillan, who did the undercover investigation and conducted the search warrant on Wheelon’s stables.

When Sutherland was called to testify, White immediately objected and Headrick ruled the veterinarian could not testify.
As a result, Blount County Assistant District Attorney Ellen Berez was unable to get the test results on the horse Wheelon was charged with abusing, named She’s A Sweeper, from being admitted into evidence.
Headrick then ruled the prosecution had failed to prove there was probable cause to send the case to the grand jury.

After the hearing, Berez said that Sutherland “would have testified that on a scale of 1 to 10 that She’s A Sweeper rated a 9 to 10 for soreness. He said it was one of the worst cases he’s ever seen.”

Joe Heffington, an attorney from Shelbyville representing the owners, asked that the horses be returned. Their release is being worked out with the Humane Society of the United States officials, the group paying for the boarding and care of the animals.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
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post #19 of 41 Old 08-16-2013, 07:27 PM
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The answer to your question appears to be "yes."

This is an appalling lack of understanding by at least one, and maybe two, Federal officials. The witness who violated the rule arrived late. That sometimes happens and maybe he didn't hear the judge impose "The Rule." That doesn't excuse him, nor does it excuse the OIG official.

And, maybe, the prosecuting attorney. Where was his head? There is a lot of "situational awareness" required in these matters. It would appear the entire team was asleeep at the switch.

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post #20 of 41 Old 08-16-2013, 10:37 PM
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DISGUSTING. And animals lose again.

Im not surprised. It seems like no one is bothering to do their jobs anymore. How hard was it for the official to remember something so important, from that very morning?

Bribes maybe? Or just stupidity?
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