The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled against a local businessman, saying prosecutors do not have to give Sid Stanton a pre-trial diversion in the animal cruelty cases against him.
A pre-trial diversion is essentially a free ride. It would mean the animal cruelty cases against Stanton would be set aside before going to trial – with no requirement for him to make a plea. If Stanton avoided any more legal trouble for a set amount of time, usually two or three years, the charges would be dropped.
Local prosecutors, however, do not want to grant Stanton a pre-trial diversion. Stanton challenged that decision all the way to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the local ruling.
“We agree with the Court of Criminal Appeals that the assistant district attorney did not abuse his discretion in denying his pre-trial diversion,” wrote Justice Susan Lee in the high court’s decision.
The entire process, from the time Stanton was indicted to the time of the Supreme Court ruling, has taken more than three years.
Stanton is facing 16 counts of animal cruelty in a case which dates back to September 2009. Prosecutors claim Stanton did not properly care for numerous horses on his property.
Over 20 of the horses were taken by animal rights organizations and Stanton was indicted on the charges after horses were reportedly found dead and malnourished at his ranch on his Bluff Springs Road. Stanton was subsequently hit with a new round of charges claiming similar crimes following a raid on his Sparta Highway ranch in July 2011 – a raid that happened while Stanton’s first case was tied up in appeals.
In both cases, animal rights organizations maintain Stanton failed to properly care for the numerous horses in his possession. Stanton disagrees saying he was trying to care for animals no one else wanted.
“A lot of the horses were ill when I received them,” Stanton told investigators following the first raid in 2009, noting he lost money caring for the animals. “I tried to nurse and care for the horses, some of which were old. I received the horses and took care of them when others would not take care of them.”
Forcing the long delay in Stanton’s first case is his insistence in obtaining a pre-trial diversion, which he believes is his legal right. His defense feels prosecutors do not have good reason to deny his pre-trial diversion since Stanton has a clean criminal record along with numerous letters of support from members of the community.
However, prosecutors maintain Stanton did have legal issues when it came to business. Specifically they said the local businessman had a $250,000 judgment leveled against him by a civil court for using the Exxon Mobil name without selling genuine Exxon fuel.
It was noted Stanton “deliberately set out to deceive customers” into believing they were buying Exxon gas from his station. Prosecutors also said he was assessed a $50,000 penalty for problems with his underground gas storage tanks.
With his appeal rejected by the Supreme Court, Stanton’s case will likely be placed on the docket in the near future. Special Judge Shayne Sexton is presiding over the case.
Sexton is also the special judge in the case against three Warren County bus shed employees who allegedly covered up a mechanical issue, a faulty flashing bus stop sign, after a first-grader was killed while crossing the street to board his school bus. Those cases have also been held up by appeals asking for pre-trial diversions, all of which have been denied.