MAGNOLIA, Ark. — A judge in Columbia County has sentenced a former Southern Arkansas University student to 10 years in prison in connection to the theft of five horses, despite sentencing recommendations that would have avoided jail time.
Both the prosecution and defense recommended a suspended sentence for 21-year-old Jaci Jackson, who pleaded guilty to charges in Arkansas and Oklahoma related to the November 2011 theft of five horses and equipment from the university’s stables. On Thursday, Judge Larry Chandler opted for a 10-year prison term, which Jackson must serve after completing her 42-month prison sentence in Oklahoma, the Banner-News reported.
The five horses were later discovered in southeastern Oklahoma. Four were starving and emaciated, and the fifth horse, named Credit Card, died after having its throat slashed.
During court proceedings Thursday, deputy prosecuting attorney David Butler recommended a suspended sentence for Jackson, citing her age, the influence of her mother and the fact that both Jackson and her sister testified at her mother’s trial.
Jackson’s mother, Wendi Cox, is serving a 60-year prison sentence in connection with the case.
“The state is satisfied that this punishment in Oklahoma is sufficient,” Butler said. “Her life is going to be difficult no matter where she’s at.”
Jackson’s attorney, Michael Lusk, agreed.
“Her involvement in this case in Arkansas is a very slim involvement,” he said. “She was more or less forced into it by her mother. I understand she was an adult at the time and is responsible for her conduct. However, she was very young. She has done 400 hours of community service. She has been attending college in DeQueen and has several hours credit. She has turned her life and put it in a very positive direction.”
But the judge cited the severity of the crime in making his decision. Chandler said Jackson could have told school officials or law enforcement authorities about the horses’ whereabouts after she returned to SAU, but chose not to.
“The devastation of Credit Card’s owner has been well documented, but the damage that was done to those other horses — the grief and expense to which you put your friends and teammates by nearly allowing those horses to starve to death — made a very serious impression on me at the trial,” he said. “I simply cannot allow you to walk out of this courtroom without being punished.”
After the hearing, Jackson’s attorney told the newspaper the 21-year-old is “totally apologetic” and that she was under the influence of her mother at the time.
“It’s been a long time since I was 18, 19 or 20 years old but I think if my mother or daddy had me do something ) even though I knew it was wrong — I may have followed their lead and done something I shouldn’t have done,” Lusk said. “And that’s what she’s a victim of. Her mother’s serving time and she will be too.”
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