No case in Texas probe of wild horse program

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, August/September 1996:

SAN ANTONIO––The Del Rio,
Texas grand jury probe of alleged illegal sales
of wild horses to slaughter has apparently
ended without issuing criminal charges.
Acting on the advice of Charles
Brooks, trial attorney for the Environment and
Natural Resources Division of the Department
of Justice, U.S. attorney James William Blagg
and John E. Murphy, first assistant U.S. attorney,
criminal division, on July 5 recommended
to the Department of the Interior that “the
investigation within the Western District of
Texas into the incident involving Don
Galloway and the 36 horses placed on a ranch
in Terrell County, Texas should be closed.”


The apparent closure came 17 days
after Reed Smith, former Bureau of Land
Management director of operations for New
Mexico, and five current or retired BLM law
enforcement officers sent a nine-page letter to
Attorney General Janet Reno, reiterating allegations
of BLM involvement in illegally selling
wild horses to slaughter that they earlier
issued at an Albuquerque press conference
hosted by the American Wild Horse and Burro
Alliance on September 19, 1995. The letter
added claims that BLM offices throughout the
U.S. routinely divert funds from enforcing
Congressional mandates to serve other ends.
An account of the letter provided in
the July 2 edition of The New York Times indicates
that it parallels a memo Smith purportedly
issued to himself on March 21, 1994,
together with claims he made concerning the
BLM oil and gas leasing program to Josh
Kurtz of the Santa Fe Reporter, published in
October 1994. Neither item mentioned wild
horses. Smith spent 20 years in the BLM oil
and gas program, but is not known to have
ever been part of the wild horse program.
Although Smith denies being the
same individual, extensive investigation by
ANIMAL PEOPLE discovered that a Reed
Smith of similar description joined the BLM in
1974 after spending some years on a government
disability pension while pursuing an
unsuccessful literary career that included dubious
claims about involvement in the landmark
1961 Tropic of Cancer Supreme Court case.
During his BLM tenure, that Reed Smith ran
into trouble for promoting tax resistance, issuing
Holocaust denial literature, and allegedly
poaching a moose on BLM time in Alaska.
The wild horse probe began in July
1993, according to the Blagg/Murphy summation,
when “at the request of law enforcement
agents of the BLM, a warrant was obtained
from the magistrate judge in Del Rio authorizing
the seizure of 36 horses” from the Terrell
ranch. Nineteen horses were seized, one was
found dead, and the rest were left at the ranch.
Galloway surrendered eight more of the horses
to the BLM in March 1994. In December
1994, acting on a tip from Brent Heberlein,
manager of the the Beltex horse slaughtering
plant in Fort Worth, BLM enforcement agent
Steve Sederwall seized nine horses which
apparently included the rest of the group previously
“seized” in July 1993.
Continued Blagg and Murphy,
“Investigation revealed that the 36 horses had
been adopted by nine individuals who
appeared to be ‘straw’ adopters. An informant
reported to BLM law enforcement officers that
Galloway intended to sell the horses to slaughter
after the one-year period between adoption
and passing of title” required by federal law
“had expired. The informant claimed that he
had overheard this conversation between
Galloway and a Mr. Culbertson. Both Galloway
and Culbertson deny such conversation.
There is no independent evidence of the conversation.
All nine adopters insist that it was
their intent to save these horses. They believe
their actions were legal and humanitarian.”
Galloway’s attorney told The New
York Times that Galloway had received and
adopted out 9,000 BLM wild horses altogether.
Galloway said he was dropped from the adoption
program due to the grand jury probe.
The claims of BLM wrongdoing surfaced
after Sederwall and the other BLM
enforcement officers involved were taken off
the case and reassigned as part of the Clinton
administration’s “Reinvention of government”
downsizing. Objecting to transfer, Sederwall
and one of the other officers took mental disability
retirement.
Sederwall and other officers
involved told ANIMAL PEOPLE in October
1995 that the Del Rio grand jury had never
taken their evidence, but after the November
1995 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE n o t e d
that their stories seemed to be recycled versions
of abuses within the wild horse program
that were revealed and dealt with between
1987 and 1990, the Justice Department sent
Galloway a letter notifying him that he was
under investigation and might be indicted.
Questions about the highly unusual
letter and the investigation, from both A N IMAL
PEOPLE and the BLM, were directed
to Del Rio assistant U.S. attorney Alia
Ludlom, who never returned telephone messages
left repeatedly over the past nine months
by ANIMAL PEOPLE and BLM public relations
officer Tanna Chattin. Without having
been asked, Sederwall insisted to A N I M A L
P E O P L E that he had never had a personal
relationship with Ludlom.
“In the course of this prolonged
investigation many accusations were made
concerning a number of irregularities occurring
outside of the Western District of Texas,”
Blagg and Murphy wrote. “With regard to the
other matters, we defer to those authorities
having direct jurisdiction and more appropriate
venue, and trust that appropriate inquiry will
be made.”
Since the probe began, the BLM
wild horse program has been all but killed by
Congressionally imposed budget cuts.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *