PRESTON, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho teacher accused of feeding a live, sick puppy to a snapping turtle in front of several students will be tried in his own community next month, a judge has ruled, dismissing an attempt by prosecutors to move the trial to another county.
Prosecutors wanted to move the trial of Preston Junior High School teacher Robert Crosland outside of Franklin County. The teacher has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty in Franklin County Magistrate Court.
Prosecutors with the Idaho Attorney General's Office argued that they won't be able to seat an unbiased jury because of "the community's rallying cry to support Crosland and the unusual community support in this case," the Idaho State Journal reported Sunday. They noted that people are raising money to help the teacher pay for his legal defense.
State attorneys are handling the case after Franklin County Prosecutor Vic Pearson cited a conflict of interest.
District Judge David C. Hooste on Tuesday ruled in favor of Crosland, whose lawyer argued in part that it is against state statute to change the place of a trial in criminal misdemeanor cases.
Crosland's attorney, Shane Reichert, argued that moving the trial outside of Franklin County would deny Crosland the right to a jury trial of his peers.
The teacher could face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine if convicted at trial Oct. 26.
Numerous media reports have stated that Crosland is accused of feeding the live puppy to the snapping turtle because the puppy was terminally ill, but nowhere in the court documents obtained by the Journal is it stated that the puppy had any illness.
The school is in rural Preston, a community of about 5,300 people where the 2004 teen cult classic film "Napoleon Dynamite" was set.
Several parents came forward to say Crosland fed the puppy to the turtle on March 7. Several weeks later, state officials seized the turtle and euthanized it as a non-native species.
Crosland is in the classroom this school year teaching biology, his lawyer said.
Information from: Idaho State Journal, http://www.journalnet.com