Arcata rancher Ray Christie must answer for crimes that have put the local community and environment at risk, the trial prosecutor told jurors during his closing argument this morning.
“The defendant Ray Christie,” Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada said while pointing at Christie, “must be held accountable for the manner in which he operated his ranch business.”
The way Christie cared for his thousands of cattle was “grossly inadequate,” Kamada said, “and the result was the disposal of vast numbers of cow carcasses.”
Kamada said Christie knows many of the animals he buys are weak and in danger of dying. After the animals arrive at his property he removes their eartags so they can’t be traced, the prosecutor said.
“So defendant Christie is taking sick animals and then allowing them to decompose in our waterways. This is an absolute health crisis in the making.”
Christie owns or leases numerous properties around the county. Dead cattle were found in sloughs, in water channels leading to sloughs and in water channels that drain into Humboldt Bay. A number of carcasses were found on the bank of the Mad River.
Jurors were again shown photos of carcasses strewn around the various parcels. And Kamada reminded the jury that a year before Christie’s lands were raided, a game warden contacted Christie about carcasses near waterways on one of the properties. Christie acknowledged he knew there were dead animals there but refused to meet with the warden.
Except for one witness who showed drone footage of some of the land in question, the only defense witness was Christie’s ranch hand Brandon Horn. He testified that dead and dying animals discovered on the ranch on March 18, 2018, weren’t there when he left the ranch the night before.
“Brandon Horn would have you believe that a mysterious person, whose name he doesn’t know, dropped these animals off in the middle of the night,” Kamada told the jury. “You are the ones who decide who’s telling the truth.”
Horn had a selective memory depending on who was questioning him on the witness stand, Kamada said, and defense attorney John Cogorno “asked so many leading questions that the judge had to tell (Cogorno) to stop testifying.”
Kamada noted Horn is financially dependent on Christie and lives in a house on one of his leased properties.
“He has a reason to protect the defendant,” he said. Also, Horn is a friend of Christie’s son and made it clear during his testimony that he admires Christie.
Although officers found about 1,300 eartags in a bucket in Christie’s barn, Horn claimed he knew nothing about removing eartags.
“He got real nervous when it came to talking about the tags,” Kamada said.
A former ranch hand of Christie’s, James Geth, testified he was told removing the tags was illegal but to do it anyway.
Christie is charged with dozens of misdemeanor counts of dumping carcasses near state water. One pile of rotting carcasses on his Jackson Ranch Road ranch was estimated at anywhere from 40 to 200 dead animals.
In addition, Christie is charged with four felony counts of animal cruelty. Some pertain to cattle found jammed together in a small pen, along with dying and dead animals, garbage and sheet metal. No food or water was available.
At another site, which was littered with carcasses, two almost-dead cows were found down and with no access to food or water. According to state veterinarian Steven Gallego, 80 percent to 90 percent of the herd on that property was emaciated. The grass on the property was basically mud, Gallego testified.
At a leased ranch on Anderson Avenue in McKinleyville, livestock Deputy Travis Mendes discovered a cow that was giving birth and seemed to be in trouble. Mendes talked to Christie on the phone and “was assured the animal would get the attention it needed,” Kamada said.
Three months later the cow was found dead “in the exact same location.”
Defense attorney Cogorno is expected to present his closing argument this afternoon.
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