Rigby men enter Alford plea in cattle theft, rebranding case

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A Foster Farms cow that had been re-branded. According the the Idaho State Brand Inspector, Foster Farms brand is a “100” and the “JJ”, was branded over the top of the “100”. | Courtesy photo

RIGBY — Two brothers who were caught rebranding and removing ear tags have entered Alford pleas to two misdemeanor theft charges.

Jared and Heath Lewis, both of Rigby, entered into a plea agreement with Jefferson County Prosecutor Robin Dunn on Nov. 22. On Dec. 20, the pair appeared before Magistrate Judge Robert L. Crowley Jr and entered Alford pleas.

An Alford plea means the defendants admitted a enough evidence existed that a jury could find them guilty, although they believed otherwise.

Crowley found the pair guilty and sentenced each to serve five days in jail. The pair will be released during the day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for work. They are due to report to the Jefferson County Jail Jan. 2 at 7 p.m.

The pair was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine each, serve 50 hours of community service and be placed on probation for a period of one year.

As part of the plea agreement, the Lewis brothers submitted an apology letter. In the letter, the pair apologized for the circumstances that lead to Fosters’ cattle being rebranded and their ear tags removed, but did not admit to any theft.

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Apology letter submitted by Jared and Heath Lewis. | Courtesy photo

Should they complete their probation successfully, they will be granted a withheld judgment, meaning the charges will be dismissed.

EastIdahoNews.com attempted phone calls to both Jared and Heath Lewis on their work and cell phones, but were unable to reach them.

Court documents show in August 2015, an unnamed person saw what he believed to be cattle from Ririe-based Foster Land & Cattle Co. mixed in with herd cattle from Double L Farms on land the Lewises were renting in the Palisades area. The two ranches run cattle next to each other in Jefferson County. The investigative report states it is possible the cows could have got mixed together there.

Idaho State Police Brand Inspector Kirk Christensen was called to investigate the herd in September along with a representative of Foster Land & Cattle. Heath Lewis was contacted and asked to come along to assist in looking through his cows. Heath Lewis told investigators he was busy with other things, but gave the two permission to look through his cattle, and if any were found to belong to Foster, that they should be returned.

During the investigation, Christensen discovered five cows belonging to Foster Land & Cattle.

The investigative report showed two calves and one cow allegedly had a Double L Farms brand that was overlaid on top of Foster brand, and the ear tags were removed from all the animals.

“We are not denying that one of the cows were rebranded, but it was only one,” Jared Lewis told EastIdahoNews.com in February. “It’s not even a question, because it happened. But did we try to steal it? Kill it? Butcher it? Sell it? No. We aren’t felons or crooks. We didn’t criminally try to take their cows.”

ear_tag

Photo shows a Foster Farm cow missing a ear tag. According to court records, the whole in the ear indicates the tag was removed and not ripped out by being caught in a fence. | Courtesy photo

The cows were later taken to a veterinarian and returned to Foster Land & Cattle.

Jared and Heath Lewis weren’t arrested; however, the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office filed four felony grand theft charges each against the men.

The case went through a preliminary hearing where a magistrate judge found sufficient evidence to bind the case over to the District Court. While in District Court, Judge Gregory Moeller recommended both parties participate in mediation to help solve the case.

According to Dunn, both parties agreed to allow the Chief Administrative Judge in the Seventh District, Judge Darren Simpson, to mediate the case.

Both sides came to a compromise which resulted in the final binding plea agreement. The case was then sent back to Magistrate Judge Robert Crowley Jr. to pronounce the terms and sentence.

Related Content:

Men accused of stealing cattle enter into plea agreement

Rigby ranchers accused of theft: “We’re not crooks”

Rebranded cattle and missing ear tags lead to felony charges

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