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Report: Plea deal reached in Montana cattle starvation case

April 10, 2020 GMT
In this Tuesday, March 31, 2020, photo, the carcass of a dead cow lies in a pasture on Mission Road in Cascade, Mont. Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter and his staff learned of the starving black Angus herd after people who drove by the property reported seeing the dead cows, the Great Falls Tribune reported Tuesday. (Rion Sanders/The Great Falls Tribune via AP)
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In this Tuesday, March 31, 2020, photo, the carcass of a dead cow lies in a pasture on Mission Road in Cascade, Mont. Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter and his staff learned of the starving black Angus herd after people who drove by the property reported seeing the dead cows, the Great Falls Tribune reported Tuesday. (Rion Sanders/The Great Falls Tribune via AP)
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In this Tuesday, March 31, 2020, photo, the carcass of a dead cow lies in a pasture on Mission Road in Cascade, Mont. Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter and his staff learned of the starving black Angus herd after people who drove by the property reported seeing the dead cows, the Great Falls Tribune reported Tuesday. (Rion Sanders/The Great Falls Tribune via AP)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A rancher has agreed to plead guilty to felony aggravated animal cruelty after more than 100 cows died of starvation in central Montana, a prosecutor said.

George J. Savoy, 57, signed the agreement Thursday, the Great Falls Tribune reported. His attorney, Jason Holden, did not immediately return a phone call Friday seeking further details.

Cascade County seized the herd March 30 after people reported seeing 230 starving black Angus in a herd between Cascade and Simms, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Great Falls. Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said at the time that no explanation had been given for the treatment of the animals.

County Attorney Josh Racki has agreed to recommend the court impose a six-year deferred sentence if Savoy assumes financial responsibility for the care of the seized cattle and immediately transfers them to his brother to sell in six months.

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“Now he can’t have cattle for six years,” Racki said. “Really, what we’re trying to prevent is him having control of animals.”

Savoy must also allow authorities weekly checkups of the animals’ conditions before their sale and take responsibility for disposing the carcasses of the dead cattle, prosecutors said.

Other conditions include paying the county restitution for its costs in seizing and caring for the cattle in the past week and a half. The amount has not been calculated.

A sentencing date has not been scheduled.