Retired veterinarian accused of animal cruelty takes stand

Tuesday, February 10th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KINGFISHER, Okla. (AP) _ A retired veterinarian charged with 14 counts of animal cruelty took the stand in his own defense as his attorneys rested their case.

Kingfisher County prosecutors are expected to call rebuttal witnesses Tuesday before closing arguments in the trial of Jess Brewer.

Brewer is accused of allowing the starvation of more than 100 horses that were found by an undersheriff in a pasture near Lacey in November 2002.

At least 27 were dead. Some of those who survived eventually died and 98 surviving horses were auctioned off Jan. 31.

Brewer has denied the allegations, and testified Monday that his business partner, Tom Sturgeon, never told him he couldn't continue to care for the herd that was purchased from a Navajo reservation near Holbrook, Ariz., and New Mexico.

``Tom never to this day told me he couldn't do it anymore,'' Brewer said.

Brewer said had he known that Sturgeon was incurring large expenses to feed the animals. He said he would've advised him to sell the horses, not to allow them to die.

``I hate it worse than anyone in this courtroom anything like this would happen. I have spent my entire career straightening events out like this,'' Brewer said. ``I would not stand for an animal to be abused.''

Brewer testified that Sturgeon also hadn't told him that Sturgeon was leaving the livestock business or their horse partnership. He said Sturgeon's attorney in November 2002 notified him after deputies found the horses.

Brewer said he spent about $30,000 in early 2001 to buy horses because Sturgeon had asked him for help in finding livestock to graze some unused pastures he had leased.

In the agreement, the men would split any profits from the sale of the horses with Jim Flaming, who purchased the animals, Brewer testified. The agreement apparently wasn't in writing.

``That's the way it's done in our business,'' he said. ``It's a handshake deal.''

Brewer said 165 horses were delivered to Sturgeon, beginning in May 2001, for him to fatten up and sell before the end of the year. Brewer said he only saw the horses three times after they were transported to Oklahoma.

He said the animals appeared to be in good condition when he saw them in September 2002 after Sturgeon arranged to move them from one leased pasture to another.

The man who owns the pasture where the animals were found testified last week that he leased the pasture to Brewer, with Sturgeon acting as a go-between.

Brewer said he never realized there was a problem with the horses until Nov. 20, 2002, when he was notified by Sturgeon and Kingfisher County Undersheriff Barry Reilly, who had discovered the starving herd a day earlier.