published Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Shelbyville, Tenn., trainer gets probation for horse soring

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    U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A 36-year-old Shelbyville, Tenn., man was sentenced Monday to one year of probation, a $1,000 fine and also is required to write an article for publication about the crime to which he pleaded guilty.

Paul Blackburn was convicted of violating the Horse Protection Act through the use of soring, which involves cutting into a horse's hoof to make it walk with an exaggerated gait.

Prosecutions of the act against Blackburn, his co-defendants and an unrelated case in Middle Tennessee were the first in two decades, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

U.S. District Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice sentenced Blackburn to probation because the crime is a misdemeanor and it is his first criminal conviction. But Mattice noted that Blackburn had previous run-ins with the law and warned him about future choices.

"You don't want to just keep tempting fate," Mattice said. "The second time in federal court is usually very unpleasant."

Mattice told Blackburn he would have to write an article describing the horse soring methods used in the gaited-horse community, the effects of soring and the type of people who commit these crimes.

After the hearing, Blackburn said he was "just at the wrong place at the wrong time" and declined further comment.

In a news release Monday, U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said the crime "is an example of a widespread problem in the equine industry that gives unfair and illegal advantage to some competitors over others, in addition to causing cruelty to the animals."

Co-defendants Barney Davis and Christen Altman are scheduled for sentencing Feb. 27. Each pleaded guilty last fall to similar charges.

Contact staff Writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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