Webbers Falls, Oklahoma

From the Muskogee Phoenix of July 27, 2007

Farmer acquitted of animal cruelty

Webbers Falls man shot, killed two dogs on his property

Jurors deliberated about an hour before acquitting a Webbers Falls farmer charged with animal cruelty after he shot and killed two hunting dogs he said were chasing cattle on his property.

James Yang, 44, also was acquitted of two misdemeanor charges: obstructing an officer and destruction of evidence. The obstruction charge alleged Yang was uncooperative during law enforcers’ investigation; the second misdemeanor was based on the incineration of one of the dogs that died on Yang’s property.

Yang’s lawyers, Charles Kania and James Wirth, argued that their client had a legal right to protect his property from the dogs, which a group of coyote hunters had let run loose across the countryside the night of March 25, 2006.

Wirth told jurors in his opening remarks — and again during his closing argument — the case would be an easy one to decide. His declaration was based on the facts of the case and the defenses available to his client.

“The only thing Mr. Yang did wrong was to buy property in the middle of an area these hunters think they own,” Wirth said.

The dog’s owners were angered by the decision. But at the urging of Eric Johnson, who prosecuted the case for the state, they declined to comment about the trial’s outcome.

Kania said after the trial he believed jurors were — and Muskogee County residents should be — outraged Yang’s case was filed, let alone brought to trial. On his law firm’s Web site, Kania states:

“Oklahoma statutes specifically provides that a person may lawfully shoot a dog that is chasing livestock on his property. … Despite the overwhelming evidence that the shooting of these two dogs was lawful, the Muskogee County District Attorney continues to use their limited resources on prosecuting this case.”

At least one member of the eight-woman, four-man jury appeared to agree.

“I think this poor man is out a lot of money,” juror Sandra Checotah said about Yang after the verdicts were announced. “I am sorry he and his family had to go through this at all.”

(More)

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