Tucker Michael Otterson, the 29-year-old former Stonyford resident who was accused of unlawfully killing two cows in Colusa County last year and decapitating one, was sentenced to two years in jail in the Colusa County Superior Court last Wednesday.
He previously pleaded guilty to a single felony count of grand theft of an animal in court on Dec. 6. In addition to the grand theft of an animal charge, Otterson was also initially charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty, one of which included a special allegation for use of a firearm, two counts of vandalism with over $400 in property damage, hit-and-run driving, and obstructing and delaying a peace officer.
As a part of a plea deal, those charges were dismissed on a Harvey Waiver – which allows a court to sentence a defendant for a charge that has already been dismissed, and in this case allow for appropriate restitution to the victim.
Otterson’s attorney, David R. Nelson, asked that his client receive felony probation. Failing that, he suggested the lower term of 16 months, with a suspended execution of a concluding portion of the term. Nelson noted that his client had never previously been convicted of a felony, and said that in crimes regarding property – like this one – the court had typically gone with probation or the middle-term. He also asked the court to consider Otterson’s job and cattle operation in Oregon, as well as his status as the primary breadwinner for his family, and the impact on the financial condition and needs of his three minor children, in the sentencing.
In Otterson’s sentencing statement filed with the court, his attorney said, “(Otterson’s) stance is that he hit two cows with his pickup truck while they were on the county roadway. Noting that one cow was seriously injured he used a pistol to fire one shot to euthanize the animal.” Also in the sentencing statement was the admission that he “took the head of a dead cow,” which is where the grand theft charge stemmed from.
Colusa County District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp was seeking the upper-term of three years. During his comments at the sentencing, Beauchamp described Otterson as “cowboy or cattleman” who was involved in a “feud” with the victim, who owned both of the cows that were killed. He said it was the prosecution’s belief that Otterson showed up at the other rancher’s house with a cattle trailer attached to his truck to steal cattle, but that the cows didn’t cooperate – contrary to Otterson’s assertion that he was pig hunting that night and accidentally struck the cows with his truck on the county road, before “euthanizing” one with a pistol and taking the cow’s head.
Beauchamp said that before Otterson was presented with physical evidence that tied him to the scene, he denied he had any involvement in the death of the cattle, even suggesting to law enforcement that a specific ethnic group might have been responsible for killing the cows. Beauchamp also pointed to Otterson’s history of violence against animals as a reason he was seeking the upper term.
“We are asking for the upper term, because we believe he deserves it,” Beauchamp said.
Ultimately, Colusa Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson decided on the middle term of 24 months. Thompson said that while it was Otterson’s first felony conviction, the court was mindful of his significant and recent criminal record, some of which pertained to the cruel treatment of animals.
“The defendant has some personal issues that need to be addressed at some juncture,” Thompson said, later describing Otterson as “cruel and depraved.”
Otterson was remanded into the custody of the Sheriff’s Office and was taken away in handcuffs at the conclusion of his sentencing hearing to begin serving his sentence immediately. ■