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November 8, 2011

Department of Justice

United States Attorney William C. Killian Eastern District of Tennessee

Barney Davis, Christen Altman, and Jeffery Bradford Plead Guilty To Horse Protection Act Violations

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.- Barney Davis, 39, of Lewisburg, Tenn., Christen Altman, 26, of Shelbyvuille, Tenn., and Jeffery Bradford, 33, of Lewisburg, Tenn., pleaded guilty today, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga, to various violations of the Horse Protection Act. Davis also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit witness tampering in this case. Sentencing has been set for February 13, 2012, at 9:00 a.m., in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga.

Davis faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Altman and Bradford each face a term of up to one year in prison and a $3,000 fine.

On April 26, 2011, a federal grand jury in Chattanooga returned a 34-count superseding indictment against Davis, Altman, Bradford, and Paul Blackburn, 35, of Shelbyville, Tenn., charging them with violations of the federal Horse Protection Act and related financial crimes. An amended information was filed today charging Davis with violations of the Horse Protection Act as well as conspiracy to commit witness tampering. Davis waived presentation to the grand jury and pled guilty to the charges contained in the information.

According to the factual basis presented during the rearraignment, Davis, Altman, Bradford, and Blackburn, who pleaded guilty in October, conspired to violate the federal Horse Protection Act by “soring”horses and falsifying entry forms and other related paperwork. “Soring” is a unlawful practice where items like bolts are screwed against the soles of horse’s hoofs or chemicals are applied to the pastern and hoof areas to produce pain and sensitivity to alter the gait of a horse. The altered gait is valued at horse competitions.

This indictment was the result of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG). The USDA-OIG has the authority to investigate criminal violations of the Horse Protection Act including allegations related to soring and false entries or statements. The USDA-OIG investigation of this case was initiated in August 2010.

"The gaited horse industry is important to the economy and culture of Tennessee. It is extremely important to maintain the integrity of the industry and ensure that those who participate in the industry are following the law. There have been too many people who have acted with impunity in this arena for too long by violating the Horse Protection Act and other federal laws. We hope this prosecution and others like it will deter trainers and owners who are thinking about cheating and committing fraud in order to reap monetary profits and achieve notoriety. Hopefully, the possibility of being federally prosecuted, sustaining criminal convictions – felonies and misdemeanors, and the prospect of jail time will serve to make people think twice before violating the law," said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian.

Killian further stated, "The other aspect of these types of prosecutions is less tangible but just as real. As human beings, we have been given dominion over the earth and its creatures, and we must exercise that privilege by being good stewards of this gift. Maiming and mutilating horses for sport and profit betrays that charge of stewardship. We in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the general public want these competitions to be fair, free of cheating and fraud, and safe for the horses so everyone can enjoy the natural beauty and grace of animals such as Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle horses, and other gaited horses."

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven Neff and Kent Anderson represented the United States.

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