EL CENTRO â€” Jason Jackson, El Centro councilman and former mayor, pled guilty to one felony charge of cruelty to an animal, Thursday, July 13, at the Imperial County Superior Courthouse.
According to Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Trapnell, Jackson pled guilty to the felony charge and will be sentenced August 17. Trapnell said presiding Imperial County Superior Court Judge William Lehman indicated he would likely reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor at sentencing, depending on what the sentencing report says.
A horse was found with no food or water on February 28, 2016. The animal was eating the fence, a palm tree, and its own feces to survive, according to witnesses. Jackson was identified as the owner.
After investigating the alleged incident, the Imperial County Sheriffâ€™s Office filed a criminal charge with the Imperial County District Attorneyâ€™s office on June 24, 2016 against Jackson.
After six months of investigation, the DAâ€™s office decided to charge Jackson with one count of felony cruelty to an animal.
Jackson pled not guilty and paid a $5,000 bail on Thursday, December 8, 2016.
In previous statements, Jackson denied the claims of neglect. Jackson made a statement via Facebook Thursday, July 13, 2017, in which he claimed he did nothing wrong and that the Imperial County District Attorneyâ€™s Office has some sort of vendetta against him. According to Jackson’s statement, his guilty plea was only to put the charges behind him so he could move on with his life.
â€œJackson’s accusations are false,” countered Trapnell. “We are doing this case just like we would do any other case.Â There is no vendetta, nor animosity against Mr. Jackson. We are doing our job.â€
Trapnell also commented on the fate of the horse.
â€œBy law, the horse will be forfeited after sentencing,â€ said Trapnell.Â With assistance from Imperial County Animal Control Services, the horseâ€™s health and condition have improved.
Below is Jason Jackson’s Facebook statement posted July 13, 2017:
“So today I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life, I plead guilty to something that I did not do. Now some will say that no one ever pleads guilty if your innocent, and honestly I believed that too. But sometimes you are forced to make decisions based on other things. You have to step back, push aside your principles, and do whatâ€™s best for ALL involved. Today, I did that.
We were ready to go to trial, and firmly believe that we would have won a full dismissal of the single charge that I was facing. So why plead then? Well, I basically made a “business” decision. I have already spent more than $10,000 defending myself, and a trial would have cost me another $10,000 – $15,000. Additionally, it would have removed me from my business for 6 – 8 days, or more at an unknown cost. And then my attorney said to me today, “There are no guarantees when it comes to a jury”. (Remember OJ Simpson) On the facts, we winâ€¦on bias, ill will, jealousy, etc. you could lose. What would I lose? I would lose my business (State License), and 250 employees and their families could lose their source of income. I would lose my seat on the City Council. I would lose my right to own or poses firearms. I would lose the right to vote, and much, much more.
And why?, because the Assistant District Attorney wants to run for District Attorney next year, or the current D.A. will just run for re-election with the intent of retiring early so she can be â€œhandedâ€ the position. Somehow she has decided (Or made a deal with someone) that prosecuting me with garner her support for D.A. Itâ€™s like the worst kept secret in town. The D.A.â€™s office has nothing to lose in spending our tax payer monies for political gain/favoritism. Take today for instance, I found out that evidently more than a year ago I was offered a misdemeanor plea (It was never communicated to me, but thatâ€™s another story) So when the conversation came up today, the Deputy D.A., my attorney, and the Judge agreed on the misdemeanor. However, when the Deputy D.A. called for â€œpermissionâ€, she was denied by the Assistant D.A. She said the only way this deal could be made was if I plead to the felony, then the Judge would reduce it to the misdemeanor. So whatâ€™s the difference? Spite, ego, and abuse of power by our D.A.’s office.
Let me be VERY clear, the only reason I plead to the felony was because the Judge agreed to lower it to the misdemeanor. So basically, all I did today was plead to a misdemeanor, PERIOD. This all goes away, and I and my family can get back to our lives. Iâ€™m not happy, but unfortunately itâ€™s the system that we live in.”