UPDATE: Prominent walking horse trainer enters guilty plea
(WRCB/AP) - A prominent Tennessee Walking Horse trainer has entered a guilty plea in federal court.
In federal court Tuesday, Jackie McConnell, 60, entered a plea of guilty to transporting and showing sored horses and entering false forms and statements about the horses.
McConnell's co-defendants and employees John Mays, 47, and Joseph Abernathy, 29, also entered guilty pleas to transporting and showing sored horses.
All three men faced a 52-count indictment of soring horses at McConnell's farm in Collierville. The remaining 51 counts were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea.
"I hope this sends a message to anyone else participating in this kind of behavior, procedures. Stop, stop now. They're not playing," says horse trainer, Nathanael Jackson.
McConnell is asking he be sentenced to probation on account of his age and physical ability.
The federal magistrate that heard the guilty pleas Tuesday will recommend a US District Judge accept the plea agreements.
Soring is a banned practice of using chemicals and chains to train the horses to perform a high-stepping gait for shows and competitions.
Last week, the Humane Society of the United States released the video that led to the federal indictments under the Horse Protection Act.
McConnell could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while both Mays and Abernathy each face a possible year in prison and a $3,000 fine each.
"I'll be honest with you, we'll never get there. There's going to be somebody always cheating," says David Howard, a board member for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.
McConnell, Mays and Abernathy's sentencing is set for September 10, 2012.