The prison sentence came after Martin violated conditions of an earlier, more lenient sentence by again taking possession of a dozen horses she had starved in 2011.
Last year, she and her husband, Jack Martin, accepted plea agreements that included the judge’s condition they sell all 65 of the horses involved in the abuse case. They also were ordered not own any horses during the period of their sentence. But last July, a dozen horses were found in very poor condition on the Martins’ ranch on Sand Creek north of Bridger.
Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon argued on Friday for a two-year prison sentence for Terry Martin, with 13 years suspended. He also asked for two dozen conditions, including that Martin be prohibited from owning any animals during her 15-year sentence and that she undergo a mental health evaluation. Her defense attorney, David Arthur of Billings, said Martin had already spent three months in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility for the sentencing violations.
Arthur said Martin could “turn her life around in four years with a mental health evaluation” if the judge would sentence her to four years of probation. But Jones sentenced her to 15 years in prison with 13 years suspended, and agreed with Nixon that she not be allowed to own cats or dogs or even a “goldfish.” “If she’s going to treat horses in the way she’s treated them, she’s forfeited any right to own any animals,” Jones said. “When you look at the condition of these horses, it’s heartbreaking.” The judge was reacting to photos of skinny horses with ribs, hips and backbones protruding, taken by Montana brand inspector Pete Olsen last winter and summer.
When carrying out the judge’s order last year to sell all 65 horses, Olsen said he wrote the transfer papers to sell a dozen to an Oregon buyer. But in court Friday, Olsen testified that they wound up on a ranch near Rapelje and that Terry Martin had misled the landowner. She told him she owned the horses and the Oregon man was just the trainer. And, for the second winter and summer, the horses suffered, Olsen said. “They had eaten their tails off, so it looked to me they had been without feed at some point,” he said. Of the 65 horses in the Martins’ original herd, seven died two years ago, 36 are in Belgrade, 12 are in Hardin and 10 are in Pompeys Pillar, Olsen said in the courtroom.