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Doctor’s initial hearing postponed
Charges not yet filed against La Grande doctor
The arraignment for the psychiatrist arrested in connection with Glass Hill Road cattle shootings has been postponed.
Dr. Joel Rice was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday morning.
Mona Williams, the Wallowa County district attorney, will be prosecuting the case in Union County but has not yet filed charges because of a prolonged illness she has been battling.
Williams said she hopes to be able to visit with investigators and cattle owners this week or early next week. The attorney said she also wants to visit the area where the cows were found.
“That’s why I haven’t filed charges at this point,” she said. “I don’t want to file charges until I’m sure what I’m doing is appropriate.”
Union County District Attorney Tim Thompson said last week that because Rice is so involved with the drug court he would not be handling the case.
Rice was arrested Aug. 30 on seven counts of aggravated animal abuse and seven counts of first-degree criminal mischief in connection with seven shot cattle found off of Glass Hill Road on Rice’s property.
Arresting charges of first-degree criminal mischief and aggravated animal abuse are both Class C felonies and carry a maximum penalty of five years and/or a fine of $125,000. For criminal mischief charges, sentencing guidelines are based on the property value, in this case the cattle shot. The maximum presumptive sentencing per mischief count, according to the Oregon Sentencing Guidelines Grid, would be 120 units, 60 days of which could be in jail, because sheriff’s officials said Rice had no prior criminal record. For aggravated animal abuse, a Level 3 crime, the most likely presumptive sentence could be 90 sanctioned units, 30 of which could be served in jail.
The cattle were found Aug. 15. According to the Union County Sheriff’s Office, six cows died as a result. The cows were trespassing on Rice’s property, sheriff’s officials said.
Rice, 57, is board certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine, according to his profile on the Blue Mountain Associates website.