In February, Oliver Fant Jr., 2452 Clinch Valley Road, Thorn Hill, filed a private prosecution warrant against his neighbor, Jeff Stoltz, 2570 Clinch Valley Road, accusing Stoltz of shooting several of his goats in January and February.
Following a bench trial in Hawkins County Sessions Court last month, Judge David Brand found Stoltz guilty on one count of intentionally killing an animal. Stoltz was sentenced to 60 days in jail, fined $75, and ordered to pay Fant $1,000 in restitution.
Stoltz, through his attorney Doug Jenkins, then filed an appeal in Hawkins County Circuit Court seeking a jury trial. Earlier this month, Stoltz and Jenkins reached an agreement with the Rogersville Attorney General’s Office in which Stoltz’s charge would be dismissed, but Stoltz agreed to pay the full $3,700 in restitution that had been sought by Fant.
Brand’s original judgment last month was based on testimony from two eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen Stoltz shoot only one goat, although all 27 goats were killed in the same manner with a high-powered rifle. Fant told the court that one of the killed goats was worth $1,000, and the rest were worth $100.
Subsequently Brand convicted Stoltz on only one count of intentional killing of an animal and ordered restitution that covered the most valuable individual goat only.
Assistant Attorney General Alex Pearson told the Times-News Tuesday that Fant agreed to the new deal, which Pearson characterized as a “compromise.” Although the order has not been submitted to the circuit court clerk’s office, Stoltz has paid the $3,700 in restitution already.
Jenkins has maintained his client’s innocence. He told the Times-News last month that the eyewitness testimony was not credible because the witnesses were about 300 yards away when they saw the shooting.
Jenkins also told the Times-News last month that several people in the community had a motive to kill the goats, which were frequently in neighbors’ yards.
Pearson acknowledged Tuesday that a jury might be swayed by the fact that the eyewitnesses claimed to be 900 feet away when the shooting took place.
“Mr. Jenkins is a good lawyer, and had it gone to trial I’m sure he would have done his best to discredit the eyewitness testimony in the eyes of the jury,” Pearson said. “Justice has been served because the victim is satisfied with the outcome and has been compensated for the killed livestock. Based on the sessions court trial result, he was only going to get $1,000.
“Had it gone to trial — worst-case scenario — the victim gets nothing.”