Remaining charges dropped in cow starvation case

Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Prosecutors have dropped insurance fraud charges against a McIntosh County man who pleaded guilty to animal abuse charges recently, after authorities say he submitted a claim saying more than 100 of his cattle died after being chased by wild dogs when in fact, they died of starvation.

James Schnabel, 44, pleaded guilty on Aug. 23 to three of the four counts against him of overworking, mistreating or abandoning animals, The Bismarck Tribune reported. He avoided jail time but must pay more than $1,300, perform 80 hours of community service and allow his operation to be monitored for two years.

On Aug. 27, South Central District Judge David Reich dismissed the other charges pending against him: Class B felony criminal attempt at theft of property and Class A misdemeanor committing a fraudulent insurance act.

The ruling was in response to a motion from Acting Logan County State’s Attorney Gerald Kuhn, who prosecuted the case.

In the motion to dismiss, Kuhn wrote that conflicting evidence, Schnabel’s lack of a criminal history and his guilty pleas were reason enough to dismiss the remaining charges.

Joe Dale Pittman, an investigator with the North Dakota Insurance Department’s fraud unit, wrote in an affidavit that Schnabel and his wife submitted a claim to Farmers Union Insurance on Jan. 30 for cattle that died being chased by wild dogs. The Schnabels had coverage for specific perils on livestock, including attacks by dogs or wild animals. Schnabel’s wife is mentioned in court documents but was not charged.

Schnabel had reported that wild dogs spooked his cows, causing them to die from trampling and suffocation.

Authorities determined the animals died of starvation.