(Dubois, WY) – Fremont County man Cole Littlewhiteman, 34, was sentenced to 3 years of supervised probation for both of the cruelty to animal felony charges he faced, to be served concurrently, at his February 22nd sentencing hearing overseen by the Honorable Judge Marvin Tyler.
Littlewhiteman, who initially pled “not guilty” to the three counts of cruelty to animal charges back in August, entered a plea agreement in January that was filed on December 22, 2021.
Per the agreement, Littlewhiteman changed his plea to “guilty” to the first two counts, while the third count was dropped in hopes of a suspended sentence with no prison time served. (The maximum penalty for a cruelty to animal felony charge is two years imprisonment, and a $5,000 fine.)
After the parameters of the filed plea agreement were discussed, Judge Tyler stated he felt “uncomfortable about accepting the guilty pleas” until he had seen the video evidence for each count, which was then played for the Court.
The first video depicted a horse tied up by its legs on the ground, while the second showed Cole kicking the same horse in the head multiple times moments later.
Both videos were then added as exhibits of evidence, with Judge Tyler stating that “sufficient factual basis to support the defendant’s guilty plea” was found based on what was seen in the videos.
Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Stebner was then given a chance to state recommendations and arguments for an appropriate sentence.
“I think the video speaks for itself,” Stebner then commented. “This wasn’t training gone a step too far or anything close to it. The defendants actions here are offensive, needless, gratuitous, and cruelty for the sake of cruelty. Why would someone behave in such a way?”
Stebner then referenced information gathered in a presentence investigation (PSI) report concerning Littlewhiteman’s criminal history.
The report indicated that Littlewhiteman has been involved in six felony cases since 2010 stemming from various incidents including: interference, resisting arrest, property destruction extensive DUI offenses, and multiple assault and batteries which included one “aggravated assault and battery where he stabbed another individual in a drunken altercation.”
The report recommended that the defendant was “not appropriate for supervised release,” with the State concurring, further adding that Littlewhiteman should serve “no less than one, no more than two years of imprisonment.”
Stebner further recommended that supervised probation should not be allowed due to that privilege being taken advantage of by Littlewhiteman in the past, according to the PSI report findings.
Stebner also added that he was confused as to why the animal cruelty charges were not considered a revocation of the probation Littlewhiteman was on at the time of the incidents.
The defense was then given the floor, with attorney James Whiting calling on the following individuals for comment: Harold Albright, owner of the ranch where the incidents occurred; Linda Strock, Cole’s mother; Willie Patzer, an outdoor Christian ministry operator who worked with Cole in the past; and Henry Mckee, a co-worker of Coles.
Each speaker stated that Littlewhiteman was in a transition stage and attempting to better his life, despite having a rough life and upbringing, and noted how good he is at “breaking horses.”
Those who worked with Littlewhiteman stated he was always a hard, respectful worker, and that the incidents depicted in the videos were out of character.
While most of the speakers did acknowledge that Cole had anger management issues, each felt prison was not appropriate since he was attempting to leave behind his criminal past.
Whiting then added that Littlewhiteman had adhered to the requirements of his current bond for 199 days, with zero incidents or interactions with animals, and also commented that there was “no lasting damage” to the horse based on a veterinarian report.
Whiting then suggested further anger management courses, grief counseling, and animal training programs to coincide with a supervised probation.
At this point in the hearing, Judge Tyler requested to view the third video from the suspended third charge, because “it might show the Court more about the unique characteristics about the defendant.”
After viewing the third video, Littlewhiteman was then given the opportunity to speak on his own behalf.
He informed the Court that during his time out on bond, he had graduated from an anger management course, completed all evaluations, and had enrolled with Fremont counselling.
“I just ask for a chance,” he concluded.
“I’ve already found factual basis to support the defendant’s guilty plea based on the first two videos,” responded Judge Tyler. “What I’ve seen in these videos and read in the affidavit is not “breaking horses.” It’s sheer cruelty.”
“Maybe the horse wasn’t physically damaged long term according to the vet report, but I guarantee that horse won’t forget what you did to it, just like I won’t forget what I saw.”
Judge Tyler then commented that he was “struggling with what to do here” in terms of sentencing, ultimately deciding that supervised probation was “an appropriate option.”
“I do wish you to be successful in probation,” Judge Tyler stated, concluding that the sentence would give Littlewhiteman “an opportunity to be successful.”