Trial begins for Preston teacher accused of animal cruelty

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Eli Lucero, pool photographer

PRESTON — The trial for the junior high school biology teacher accused of animal cruelty begins today.

As of 11 a.m., jury selection was underway at the Franklin County Courthouse. The six-member jury will decide if Preston teacher Robert Crosland is guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty for allegedly feeding a puppy to a snapping turtle.

Crosland is accused of feeding the puppy to the turtle at Preston Junior High School in early 2018. Following an investigation by the state attorney general, Crosland was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.

RELATED: Science teacher feeds puppy to turtle after school in front of students; investigation underway

He has taught science at Preston Junior High School for years. In a news release, Preston School District 201 Superintendent Marc Gee said his administration became aware of “a regrettable circumstance involving some of the biological specimens” on March 7.

“The event occurred well after students had been dismissed and was not a part of any school-directed program,” Gee said in a news release. “We emphasize that at no time was the safety of students or staff compromised.”

RELATED: Trial for teacher accused of feeding puppy to turtle postponed

It’s unclear if the dog was alive or dead when Crosland fed it to the turtle.

Although it happened after school hours, some students did witness the feeding. Administrators began investigating the incident immediately, according to Gee, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was contacted.

Authorities seized the turtle, and days later, the Idaho Department of Agriculture announced it had been “humanely euthanized” because the reptiles are considered an invasive species.

Franklin County Prosecutor Vic Pearson recused himself from the case due to a conflict of interest. Pearson requested help from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office to deal with the case.

It was the Attorney General’s Office that charged Crosland with animal cruelty after its own investigation.

Crosland pleaded not guilty Sept. 4 before Magistrate Judge David Hooste.

RELATED: AG now investigating Preston teacher for alleged animal cruelty

The story made headlines around the world, and one online petition calling for Crosland to be fired has more than 243,000 signatures. The Idaho Humane Society asked for a thorough investigation and PETA issued a statement calling Crosland “a bully who should not be allowed near impressionable young people.

Thousands of others stood behind the popular teacher and a “We Support Crosland” petition has nearly 4,000 signatures.

“It’s time to stand up for one of the best science teachers in the Preston Idaho School District. As a past student, I know first hand the impact he had on my life and many others. Time to show our support for the man that taught us science in a new way and truly loves his job,” River McKay, the organizer of the petition, wrote on the page.

If convicted Crosland faces up to six months in county jail and $5,000 in fines.

EastIdahoNews.com will continue to update this story as the trial commences.

RELATED: Judge rules science teacher can receive a fair trial in his hometown

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