Rice to appear before court

Written by Kelly Ducote, The Observer September 13, 2013 12:58 pm
An arraignment has been set for the La Grande psychiatrist arrested in connection to the Glass Hill cattle shootings.

Dr. Joel Rice, 57, is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. Tuesday for his arraignment. 

Rice was arrested Aug. 30 by the Union County Sheriff’s Office on seven counts of criminal mischief in the first degree and seven counts of aggravated animal abuse in connection with the shooting of seven cows off of Glass Hill Road.

Seven shot cattle were found Aug. 15 on Rice’s property, according to the sheriff’s office. Six cows died as a result.

Union County District
Attorney Tim Thompson said his office will not be prosecuting the case “because Dr. Rice is intimately involved with our drug treatment court.” Wallowa County District Attorney Mona Williams will handle the case instead, Thompson said.

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.

Kathleen Haley, director of the Oregon Medical Board, said that physicians charged and/or convicted of felonies have an obligation to report that to the board. Disciplinary action is handled on a case-by-case basis.