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Montana Supreme Court rejects livestock breeder's appeal of cruelty conviction

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HELENA, Montana — The Montana Supreme Court has rejected a Billings livestock breeder's appeal of his conviction of animal cruelty.

James Leachman had asked the high court to overturn the 2012 conviction over the treatment of five horses, saying prosecutors hadn't proved he owned the animals.

Leachman operated a horse breeding business before the U.S. Farm Services Administration foreclosed on his property in 2010. Leachman continued to keep more than 400 horses on the property after it was sold.

Investigators discovered five horses with tight plastic bands that had severe leg injuries, and that some were malnourished. Two died at pasture and two were euthanized.

The high court found Tuesday that Leachman maintained custody over the horses because he continued to enter the property to manage them and because he placed the bands on their legs.

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