Slaughterhouse abuse sentence: 6 months in jail

/ Source: The Associated Press

A man caught on video dragging sick cows and shocking them at a Southern California slaughterhouse has been sentenced to six months in jail.

Rafael Sanchez Herrera, 34, pleaded guilty Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court to three misdemeanor counts of illegal movement of a non-ambulatory animal.

The undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States led to a federal investigation that spurred the largest beef recall in U.S. History on Feb 17.

The video shows workers at the Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. dragging sick cows with metal chains and forklifts, shocking them with electric prods and shooting streams of water in their noses and faces.

Downer cattle have been largely barred from the food supply since a mad cow disease scare in 2003. The cows pose a higher risk of disease, partly because they often wallow in feces.

Under the plea deal, Herrera will be deported to his native Mexico after serving jail time. Prosecutors had said a conviction could have put him in jail for three years.

"The public sympathy wasn't going to be on his side," Herrera's lawyer Mario Martinez said. "This was the best possible outcome."

Herrera was sentenced a day after his former supervisor, Daniel Ugarte Navarro, pleaded not guilty to five felony counts and three misdemeanor counts of animal abuse.

Navarro, 49, is set to appear in court again on April 17 and could be offered his own plea agreement, Deputy District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus said.

A lawyer for Westland/Hallmark president Steve Mendell said in an e-mail that Mendell had no comment on the plea agreement.