LISTEN – Death Threats Against Blow Dart Suspects Under Investigation
The Missoula County Attorney's office is currently investigating death threats and other actions against three Lolo men charged with aggravated animal cruelty and tampering with evidence after allegedly injuring over 20 pets with blow darts last fall.
The three men, Hayden Barker, Matthew Breeden and Tucker Miller, have all appeared in Missoula Justice Court with their attorneys and were released on their own recognizance. KGVO News learned from Miller's attorney, John Smith, that the three had received death threats and other abusive comments from the time their names were made public.
Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul confirmed that information on Friday.
"There is an investigation into these allegations of harassment that have gone just too far," Paul said. " There have been death threats, and calls to these young men to end their own lives and that is illegal, a violation of the law.These comments are not covered by the First Amendment. I'm aware of at least one investigation underway so far."
Paul detailed the statute in question.
"Privacy in Communications is the statute that protects people from harassment through the phone, email or texting," he said. "It includes obscene, lewd or profane language or threats of physical harm to others. It is a misdemeanor, however after a third conviction, you're looking at a felony."
Paul encourages animal lovers who are outraged by the actions of the three suspects to let the law take its course.
"Don't make it personal would be my first suggestion," Paul added. "Let the justice system work it through. The charges these men are facing are serious felonies and everyone here at the county attorney's office and the sheriff's office are taking them very seriously."
A conviction for aggravated animal cruelty can bring up to two years in prison and a $2,500 fine, while tampering with or destroying physical evidence can bring up to 10 years in prison with up to a $50,000 fine.