Friday, November 5, 2004
Rancher in Gila Cattle Fight Gets 5-Month Sentence
The Associated Press
Catron County rancher Kit Laney has been sentenced to the minimum of five months in federal custody after pleading guilty to assaulting or resisting a federal officer and obstruction of a court order.
Laney, 43, will serve the sentence at an undisclosed federal facility.
He entered the pleas in September before Senior U.S. District Judge John Edwards Conway, who sentenced him last week. He will be given credit for time in jail awaiting trial, which means he will serve four months.
Laney was arrested March 14 during a roundup of cattle belonging to him and his ex-wife, Sherry Farr, on the Gila National Forest. Authorities said Laney threatened to trample federal officers with his horse and tried to release impounded livestock.
Laney and Farr had contended the roundup was illegal. The couple, who fought the U.S. Forest Service over grazing for a decade, did not have a permit to graze the cattle in the Gila.
Laney originally was charged with eight counts, including assault with a deadly weapon, assault on federal officers and obstruction of justice. Federal prosecutors dismissed six of the counts.
Conway told Laney in September that it seemed like he'd lost a lot land, his business and his marriage.
"It's through your own stupidity," Conway said. "As far as I know, I'm the first federal judge whose orders you've followed. ... You had this idea that the government couldn't tell you what to do. Well, they can."
The courts had ruled against the couple numerous times since the mid-1990s.
A federal judge last December awarded the U.S. Forest Service grazing fees and damages after finding Laney and Farr in contempt of court for grazing cattle in violation of earlier court rulings. The judge ordered the cattle removed.
More than 450 head of cattle were sold at auction over the summer for about $211,000. The government sent Laney a bill for an additional $250,000 for the roundup.