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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; 

Justice Wins Out— Judge Langton

Delivers Sentence

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer


March 3, 2010, 12:30 p.m., Hamilton , MT


     Working through the morning and lunch hour, Judge Jeffry Langton of Montana Judicial District Court sentenced scores of people who had plea agreements, mostly on DUI charges.

     Most of the many spectators were waiting for one case — the last one — the sentencing of Craig and Curtis Heydon.

     After hearing statements by the prosecutor and the defense, and then testimony from Vicki Dawson, operations manager at the Bitter Root Humane Association animal shelter, and Bill Buzzel, defense investigator, about how much daily board and care should cost for the four horses in foster care, the Judge asked the defendants if they had any statements.

     Curtis Heydon stood up and read a plea to the Judge, saying, in part, that his father always taught him right from wrong and to act on the Golden Rule. He explained that after he (Curtis) had lost his wife to cancer, he wanted to go on a camping retreat with his father in the wilderness. He said that he and his father were tried by public opinion and crucified by the press.

     When asked by the Judge, Craig Heydon said that he did not wish to make a statement.


     Before sentencing, the Judge put aside the issue of the youngest horse, Magic, the subject of the two not-guilty verdicts. He asked council to try to come to an agreement in the next few days over costs incurred for that horse, and said that Magic might even be the subject of a civil case.

     Prosecutor John Bell suggested, among a list of other recommendations including jail time, that the Heydons should learn about abused animals by having 500 hours of community service at an animal rescue or shelter.

     Judge Langton said that he believed that the $10 per horse per day board asked by the animal shelter was not an unreasonable amount for the Heydons to pay. He then said that he wanted to note, for the record, that in cases like this, he normally had to deal with poverty, senility or mental disorders. Langton stated that this was a case of well-educated men who knew how to research and plan, yet asked the court to believe they didn’t understand the requirements of horses; that they had provided for their own requirements, but that requirements for the horses had been ignored. For this, the Heydons were grossly negligent.

     Judge Langton began to go through a list of discrepancies in the Heydons’ testimony, beginning with the book “Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, 2008 edition” that Craig Heydon had told the judge he had purchased before the trip (May 2008). Langton said that a quick check on the internet showed that the book had not been released for sale until July 2008.

     The Judge continued by admonishing the Heydons for not taking horse rescuer Cheryl Flanagan’s advice in Georgia when she told them that horses needed to be conditioned and trained before undertaking a back country trip.

     Judge Langton told the court, “Their saddles and equipment were not correct. Their pack saddles were bizarre homemade devices and massively overpacked. There was no indication of hay being taken with them. They said that they took 350 lbs. of feed, yet receipts and oral statements add up to only 100 pounds of feed, with 50 pounds lost on the trail. They showed pictures of feeding the horses from a container the size of a margarine tub.

     “They have indicated deliberate indifference to the health and welfare of these horses. By the time they came out of Big Creek, the horses should have been allowed to rest, recuperate and see a farrier.

     “Over the entire trip they bought five to seven bales of hay, about a week’s worth of food for a two-month long trip. The only adequate grazing was for a few days at Elk Summit.

     “There’s no reason the horses should have been in that condition. They were used and abused. And, I still see no acceptance or acknowledgement of guilt.”

     The judge turned to John Bell and said, in reference to recommending community service, “Would you want them looking after your animal?”

     On each count, Judge Langton gave each of the defendants 180 days of jail time, with 160 days suspended; which left each to serve 180 days jail time, beginning immediately. He said that he would not entertain any motion to suspend the sentence during an appeal.

     The Judge then said that the horses would be forfeited, and that all costs, amounting to more than $24,000 each, should be paid within five months or the balance of jail time would be served.

     The defendants were taken away by sheriff’s deputies to begin serving time.


     The horses will become wards of Ravalli County , with the County Commissioners deciding their fate. Vicki Dawson hopes they will be legally turned over to the Humane Association which will then put them up for adoption.


Click here for a link to archived articles about the Heydon Abuse Case published in Rocky Mountain Rider Magazine.


More information to be posted as soon as possible. Please check back soon.


Thank you for reading Rocky Mountain Rider Magazine  


There will also be a longer article about the trial in the April Issue of RMR.


Reader Comments about the Trial. Click Here!



Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; 


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