Carolyn and Debbie Lattin, the operators of Lattin’s Country Cider Mill and Farm, were back in Thurston County Disrict Court on Friday to take part in another hearing related to their second-degree animal cruelty charges.
The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office seized 18 goats that showed signs of hoof rot from the Lattins’ farm in mid-June. The Lattins’ case is set to go to trial Oct. 16.
On Friday, the tiny courtroom was filled with their supporters, including Thurston County Commissioner Gary Edwards, who was seated next to Carolyn Lattin in the gallery before she took a seat in front of Judge Sam Meyer.
Edwards’ presence drew the attention of Judge Meyer, who asked both the defense and Thurston County prosecuting attorneys if the plan for Edwards to testify in the case goes to trial presented any conflict of interest issues.
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“In an abundance of caution, it should be discussed,” Meyer said.
Jeffrey Lippert, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, acknowledged it was a sensitive topic, but he wasn’t concerned.
“I do not believe it raises any conflict of interest that would be prejudicial to any parties or your honor,” Lippert said, adding that Edwards “can take this in stride as a private citizen” and not as a commissioner.
Admissibility and relevance issues could be addressed at a later date, he said. Judge Meyer agreed.
Meyer also scolded Lattins’ attorney Justin Kover for allegedly saying at a previous hearing that “no jury would convict these folks.”
“You need to be aware, and I hope you are, that juries are inherently risky propositions,” Meyer told Kover.
Meyer also reminded the Lattins about what could happen if they are ultimately convicted of second-degree animal cruelty, a gross misdemeanor, which would prevent them from owning goats and other similar animals for two years.
In light of a possible conviction, he encouraged the defense and prosecution to resolve the case before it goes to trial, possibly through a pre-trial diversion process.
“The Lattins could go about running their business, and the state is protected in the sense that conditions could be set in place to appropriately monitor the goats,” Meyer said.
Kover has filed a motion to immediately return the goats to the Lattins because of concerns about goat-on-goat sodomy. The court is now expected to hear that argument Oct. 11 — Meyer said he wasn’t prepared to address it Friday.
Kover also filed a motion to suppress the original search warrant that led to the seizure, but Meyer denied it.
After the hearing, Commissioner Edwards said he agreed to be a witness “because there’s been a wrong committed and I want to stick up for the right.”
As to the conflict of interest question, Edwards said if he testifies, it would be limited to his law enforcement experience. Edwards is a former Thurston County Sheriff.
Kover said he was surprised the judge denied his motion on the search warrant, but the fight continues.
“I don’t anticipate stopping here,” he said.