BELFAST – After a three-day trial, it only took a Waldo County jury about 45 minutes to decide that a Swanville pig farmer was not guilty of 13 counts of animal cruelty.
Jerry Ireland, 41, was charged in March 2018 after his farm was raided by state Animal Welfare Program agents, who exhumed 10 buried pigs, in various degrees of decay.
“Jerry had waited a long time to have his day in court, and was confident all along that once the jury heard the case they would see he did nothing wrong,” said Hunter Tzovarras, who represented Ireland.
Ireland took the stand Friday and told the jury he was transitioning out of pig farming and tried for months to sell all 20 of his Mangalista pigs, a heritage breed from Hungary.
He said he was only able to sell five, so he shot the rest.
The state argued he killed the animals after learning animal welfare agents were coming to inspect his farm again.
Witnesses testified that “Mr. Ireland said, ‘The state is coming tomorrow with an f-ing warrant. I need to get this done.’ indicating he knew the state was coming with a search warrant,” Williams Entwisle, assistant district attorney for Waldo County, said during his closing arguments. “And he had these pigs that were the subject of an investigation over a period of weeks or months.”
“Jerry felt like he was, him and his farm, was being targeted by animal control through the fall of 2017 and they may have looked more closely at his farm than he felt was justified,” Tzovarras said after the trial ended.
Two of the five pigs that were sold later died, reportedly because of malnutrition, members of the United Veteran Farmers of Maine said.
“The jury doesn’t know any of the background. All they get is what is presented in the courtroom,” said Bob Sousa, vice president of the non-profit once run by Ireland.
Ireland declined a request for an interview after the trial saying, “Not today.”
“He’s feeling relieved that it’s over and he’s ready to move on with his life,” Tzovarras said.