ND man convicted of horse deaths gets year in jail

MANDAN, N.D. -- On Sept. 24, William Kiefer ran out of second chances. The 64-year-old Fargo, N.D., man who in January had pleaded guilty to nine counts of animal cruelty, in both Burleigh and Morton county cases, was sentenced to one year at the...

William Kiefer

MANDAN, N.D. -- On Sept. 24, William Kiefer ran out of second chances.

The 64-year-old Fargo, N.D., man who in January had pleaded guilty to nine counts of animal cruelty, in both Burleigh and Morton county cases, was sentenced to one year at the Morton County Correctional Center after he pleaded guilty to violating his probation in both cases.

Kiefer's charges stemmed from the deaths of more than 100 horses in his care during the winter of 2012 and early 2013. The horses died of malnourishment and exposure and were found in piles on Kiefer's Morton County property.

More malnourished horses were discovered on Kiefer's Burleigh County property.

South Central District Court Judge Thomas Schneider notes that the state gave Kiefer every chance to pay his penance without jail time, having received "what I would consider a very light sentence the first time around."


Kiefer had been picked up in August after authorities learned he had purchased a horse from a woman in Wyoming despite a court order prohibiting Kiefer from owning livestock for the duration of his probation.

Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Gabrielle Goter and Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Justin Schwarz both asked Schneider on Sept. 24 to impose jail time on Kiefer for the violation.

Goter said the state had tried placing Kiefer on electronic monitoring and probation.

"We've already been there. We've already done that. It has not been sufficient," Goter said. "We've been here. We're less than a year after sentencing. We're already back."

Goter said Kiefer was a poor candidate for probation because he had demonstrated a lack of regard for the rules of his probation, including having contact with livestock even after the probation revocation charges had been filed.

"My concern is, we haven't taught Mr. Kiefer anything. He pays his money and he doesn't have to sit any time," she said.

Goter went on to say, "Mr. Kiefer does whatever Mr. Kiefer wants to do."

Goter requested, and Schwarz seconded, that Schneider hand Kiefer a one-year sentence, with credit for the six months Kiefer already served on electronic monitoring as well as the week Kiefer spent in jail after being arrested for violating probation.


In addition, Goter asked Schneider to make the two six-month sentences -- one each for the Burleigh and Morton county cases -- be made consecutive, meaning Kiefer would be required to serve a year.

Goter said the cases involved "separate counties. Separate charges. Separate animals that we're dealing with."

Schwarz told the judge he was not "specifically" asking for a consecutive sentence, but that he concurred with Goter's argument.

Kiefer's attorney, Scott Hager of Bismarck, told Schneider that his client had taken responsibility for his actions. He added that Kiefer's violations were a result of his struggling with changing a fundamental part of his life.

"Mr. Kiefer is 64 years old. Throughout the course of his life, horses have always -- horses and animals and livestock -- have always been a part of his life," Hager said, adding that it was "difficult to stop that part of your life."

Hager said Kiefer acknowledged he made a mistake and would accept electronic monitoring, fines or further probation. Hager said Kiefer was opposed to jail time, though.

"To at this point say six months on the Morton County (charges), and another six months on the Burleigh County charges, Mr. Kiefer certainly thinks that that is excessive," Hager said.

Kiefer also addressed the judge.


"I've been on the positive side of society for 99 percent of my life," Kiefer said. "I admit, mistakes were made. And I guess all I can say is my dad always told me, 'If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said.'"

Kiefer seconded his attorney's request.

"I would appreciate the opportunity to continue contributing to society without having to spend time in jail. Whatever other restrictions were placed by the court would be acceptable," he said.

When Schneider gave Goter the chance to respond to Kiefer, the assistant state's attorney challenged Kiefer's statement.

"In the Morton County case, there were over 100 animals that died. That's not 'mistakes were made,' that's significant," Goter said. "The dishonesty is there. The same pattern of behavior is there."

Schneider agreed.

"This was a very significant case. We're talking about more than 100 animals dying," the judge said. "And here we are back in court. Mr. Kiefer didn't comply with the requirement of no animals."

Schneider accepted Goter's recommendation of one year in jail, adding that Kiefer would begin that sentence immediately.


After the hearing, Kiefer was taken into custody at the Burleigh County Courthouse, with the intent of transferring him to Morton County Correctional Center to begin his sentence.

Hager could not be reached for comment.

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