The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Special prosecutor's case results in conviction

  • A guilty plea has been entered in an Atchison County animal abuse case that was prosecuted from by an attorney from Leavenworth County, according to information from the Leavenworth County Attorney's Office.
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  • A guilty plea has been entered in an Atchison County animal abuse case that was prosecuted from by an attorney from Leavenworth County, according to information from the Leavenworth County Attorney's Office.
    Matthew Baker pleaded guilty Monday in Atchison to five counts ― possession of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanor obstruction of law enforcement, cruelty to animals, failure to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations and license and failure to comply with cage requirements. Sentencing is scheduled for July 1.
    Sherri Becker, who is an assistant county attorney in Leavenworth, served as a special prosecutor for the Atchison County case. There was a conflict for the Atchison County Attorney Jerry Kuckelman, and he asked the Leavenworth County Attorney’s Office for assistance, according to the release.
    The Atchison County Sheriff’s Office started an investigation in March , which led to the charges against Baker. The investigation involved the housing of exotic animals located on 262nd Road in Atchison County.
    It was determined Baker was the owner of the exotic animals that were being caged at this location. He owned three bobcats, two lynx, two servals (one of which was deceased), two cougars and a tiger. During the three-month investigation, law enforcement and animal care specialists, including officials from the Kansas City Zoo determined that the pens were inadequate for these animals to live in.
    The pens were not clean. Some of the pens had water bowls but they were either turned over or dry. The tiger’s pen did have a pool but the water contained inside was stagnant and muddy. The tiger’s pen also was inadequate as it did not meet the specifications for proper size dimensions, according to the news release.
    The pens as a whole were not structurally sound enough to house these animals and meet proper safety protocols. The defendant did not have a secondary enclosure surrounding the pens as required, which is a safety precaution.
    While officials from the Kansas City Zoo were on the scene, they examined the animals’ physical state. They determined the animals were not being fed adequately as they exhibited very aggressive behavior while being fed. The zoo officials also observed that one the bobcats was possibly sick and may have had an injury to its hips or back legs, according to the release.
    During the investigation, deputies determined that the defendant would leave the animals for at least a week at a time without checking on their welfare. Through the aid of the land owner, it was determined the defendant only had been on the property five times between March 9 and May to check on or feed the animals.
    The defendant not only failed to provide adequate care to the animals but also failed to comply with USDA license regulations as he did not possess the proper permits to breed or possession the animals, according to the release.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Atchison County Sheriff’s Office executed a warrant May 5 to seize the animals and remove them from the property. During the seizure, the Baker reportedly arrived on the property and began screaming profanities at the deputies. He left the scene but returned again shortly thereafter. He continued cursing at the deputies and attempted to push past them in an attempt to get near the animals.
    Deputies gave him verbal commands to calm down and stop being physically combative. He reportedly failed to comply and continued to try to physically push past the deputies.
    The defendant was placed under arrest for obstruction. He continued to resist by refusing to keep his hands behind his back. He was given three commands to comply before deputies were required to utilize physical force.
    The defendant was searched before being placed in a patrol car. Deputies found that he was in possession of a smoking pipe that contained residue believed to be a narcotic drug. The KBI has not finished testing and therefore it cannot be determined what substances is inside the pipe. Based on deputies training and experience, the pipe is believed to be used to ingest or inhale a controlled substance, according to the release.
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