MARYVILLE, TN – Miss Iva Butler died in mid-March, and with her, died an old school reporter’s work ethic and thoroughness which made Thomas Jefferson look good 250 years ago when he championed the idea of a Free Press.
The www.billygoboy.com reporter met Iva Butler at the Larry Joe Wheelon Preliminary Hearing in August 2013. And they visited throughout the twists and turns of the legal proceedings involving the Wheelon Horse Soring saga. At the December 2014 Hearing, they sat together, and as always, he enjoyed her wit and impish way of knowing something that you didn’t know, but waiting to see what happened, getting the facts, and then shooting it straight.
Which she always did.
Miss Butler was shocked when she first start writing about the “Big Lick” Tennessee Walking Horse Animal Cruelty that she was hearing from people all over the World regarding her stories. The www.billygoboy.com reporter always wanted to go to lunch with Miss Iva, but her lunch place was the news room, and she was always busy covering the news, so regrettably, it never happened.
Iva Buter was the best at what she did.
And she passed the baton to an excellent young Daily Times reporter Wes Wade.
Here is Wes’s coverage from yesterday’s proceeding:
Defense attorney in horse soring case seeks to discredit search warrant
Posted: Friday, May 1, 2015 12:00 am
The authorities who raided a Maryville trainer’s barn two years ago in search of horse soring activities were conducting an illegal search effort, a defense attorney said Thursday in Blount County Circuit Court.
Maryville attorney Rob White, representing horse trainer Larry Joe Wheelon, is asking a Blount County judge to throw out the results of an April 2013 search at Larry Wheelon Stables on Tuckaleechee Pike in Maryville.
Wheelon, 70, Miracle Landing Drive, Maryville and one of his employees “” Randall Stacy Gunter, 45, Rutledge Street, Louisville “” each face aggravated animal cruelty charges as a result of the raid.
White is asking Blount County Circuit Court Judge Tammy Harrington to disallow evidence from the April 18, 2013, search.
White said there were several problems with the investigation conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture Special Agent Julie McMillan, who applied for a search warrant of the Larry Wheelon Stables barn on April 17, 2013. However, this was after she had visited the barn earlier that day in what she deemed was an “undercover” capacity.
Saw leg wrappings
The affidavit McMillan filed to apply for the search warrant indicated she saw cellophane wrappings around the legs of several horses.
White said there are several legitimate uses for such wraps, and that alone should not have been probable cause for a search warrant.
McMillan was subsequently asked to testify Thursday, and admitted that wraps are sometimes used for other purposes. However, she said, there were other reasons to believe the wraps were being used for soring purposes.
McMillan said she’s investigated several other horse soring cases, and had received several complaints that Wheelon was soring horses. She had actually previously visited the barn back in 2012 when she first started receiving complaints of horse soring activities at Larry Wheelon Stables, and noticed wraps on the horses during that visit as well.
“When I saw the horses were still wrapped in that same manner, to me, that was indicative that the soring was still continuing,” McMillan said Thursday from the witness stand.
McMillan said her undercover visit on April 17, 2013, came several weeks after Gino Bachman, an animal cruelty investigator with the Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA), visited the barn on her behalf. McMillan testified Thursday that Bachman had gone to the barn in an attempt to corroborate the new horse soring allegations she had received that year.
Bachman took several photos in that visit, which he emailed to McMillan.
No search warrant
White said this was also an issue, in that Bachman, as a BCSPCA investigator, had gone to the property without a warrant, and without an invitation from Wheelon or one of his representatives.
Additionally, Bachman was not identified as a BCSPCA investigator in McMillan’s subsequent application for a search warrant. Instead, McMillan referred to Bachman, who was identified at that time as “Confidential Informant No. 2,” as a former law enforcement officer.
White argued that this was either deceptive on McMillan’s part, or showed “reckless disregard” for the truth.
White also said Bachman would have been working either in his official capacity as an animal cruelty investigator, or as an “agent of the state” on behalf of McMillan, meaning Wheelon’s Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure were violated.
McMillan testified that at the time she filled out the affidavit, she did not realize the BCSPCA had any substantial police powers. She thought it was more of a humane society group that worked with law enforcement, she said. She did know that Bachman had retired from the DEA, so in an attempt to conceal his identity for as long as possible, she referred to him in the affidavit as former law enforcement, she said.
Blount County Assistant District Attorney General Matt Dunn said if Bachman would have been identified in the affidavit as an animal cruelty investigator, it would have only made the warrant application stronger.
“If the warrant reads, ‘and is (BC)SPCA investigator,’ how in any way does that negate probable cause,” Dunn said. “The state would submit that it doesn’t. It would, in fact, likely bolster that argument.”
White said the omission could mean a lot to the judge reading the affidavit and deciding whether to issue a warrant. White added that a “neutral and detached judge” reading the affidavit, as it was filed, would not have perceived any possible Fourth Amendment issues.
“The reason it’s so important is, if he’s not a law enforcement officer, and he goes in this barn “” just walks in “” my client does not have Fourth Amendment protection, because he is not an agent of the state,” White said. “What is abundantly clear now, I submit, is that he was an agent of the state, and I believe the state conceded that.”
Judge Harrington said she would rule on the defense motion on May 13. Another status hearing in the case is scheduled for May 15.”
Nephew Eugene says Miss Iva would be proud that Wes is carrying it on.