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Rexford man works plea in animal cruelty case

| September 14, 2005 12:00 AM

A Rexford man charged with felony cruelty to animals for the second time in five years has again entered into a plea agreement that includes a probationary sentence.

Steven Henry Neff, 53, was charged earlier this year with 17 felony counts of cruelty to animals, second or subsequent offense. Each count is punishable by up to two years in prison and a $2,500 fine. On Monday, Neff entered an Alford plea of guilty to three of the charges. In an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges the likelihood of conviction should the case go to trial and pleads guilty while not admitting guilt.

In exchange for Neff's plea, the county attorney's office is recommending a six-year deferred sentence. Neff could petition for early release from supervision after 36 months. In lieu of fines or restitution, Neff would forfeit all horses seized by authorities. Those horses would be auctioned, and if the proceeds failed to cover costs Neff could be required to pay restitution up to $1,500. Neff would be allowed to own two horses while on probation.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 31.

Neff was arrested on the charges in April following an investigation by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office. According to court documents, the sheriff's office began investigating the case after receiving several complaints about the condition of Neff's horses from several other residents in the Pinkham Creek area.

A search warrant was obtained for the property where the horses were kept, and a veterinarian who inspected the animals reported that the horses were not being given food and water in sufficient quantity or quality, that their basic health needs were not being met and that various hazards such as vehicle parts, farm implements, household furniture and sheet metal created an unsafe environment for the animals. The veterinarian also found that the hay that had been provided for the horses was "extremely moldy" and that the horses were infested with lice.

In a 2000 case, Neff was initially charged with five felony counts of cruelty to animals but entered into a plea agreement in which the charges were reduced to misdemeanors. He was sentenced to six months, suspended, on each count with the sentences running consecutively and fined $1,000.