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Dr. Joel Rice, left, talks with his attorney, Wes Williams, Tuesday at Rice’s arraignment. Rice faces multiple charges in connection with cattle shootings off Glass Hill Road in August. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
La Grande doctor to appear back in court in December
The defense attorney for Dr. Joel Rice waived reading of the charges and waived rights to a preliminary hearing at Rice’s arraignment Tuesday morning.
Rice, 57, is charged with seven counts of criminal mischief in the first degree, five counts of aggravated animal abuse in the first degree and two counts of animal abuse in the first degree in connection with Glass Hill Road cattle shootings that occurred in August.
Seven cows were found shot on Rice’s property in mid-August, according to the Union County Sheriff’s Office. The animals were trespassing on his property, officials said.
The case is being handled by Wallowa County District Attorney Mona Williams due to Rice’s involvement with the Union County drug treatment court. La Grande attorney Wes Williams is representing Rice.
Rice is a psychiatrist and addiction specialist in La Grande.
A plea hearing was set for 11 a.m. Dec. 17 in the first floor courtroom at the Union County Courthouse. Judge Brian Dretke has been assigned to the case, Judge Russell West said Tuesday, so he will handle case matters from now on.
First-degree criminal mischief and aggravated animal abuse charges 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.