Rice to be arraigned Tuesday

By Observer staff October 14, 2013 10:41 am

Joel Rice is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Rice was arrested Aug. 30 by the Union County Sheriff's Office in connection with August cattle shootings off of Glass Hill Road. Seven cows were shot. They had been trespassing on Rice's property, officials said.

Wallowa County District Attorney Mona Williams filed charges against Rice Oct. 7. He faces 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. Williams is handling the case because Rice works intimately with the Union County drug court.

Rice, a a 57-year-old La Grande psychiatrist, has said he was working to preserve a riparian area of his property.

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.