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Court sets aside guilty verdict of Mo. lawmaker

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri judge has set aside a misdemeanor guilty verdict against a state lawmaker whose cattle escaped last year.

Republican Rep. Warren Love was found guilty last month of animal abuse following a bench trial. Sentencing was scheduled Monday, but the judge instead set aside the guilty verdict. St. Clair County Prosecuting Attorney Joleene Simmons has 30 days to file a motion to reconsider.

The charge against Love, 63, of Osceola, was changed from animal neglect to animal abuse. Love’s attorney this month had asked for a new trial or for the guilty verdict to be set aside. It contends the law had changed by the time the charge was amended to animal abuse.

The Legislature in September overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an agricultural bill changing Missouri’s animal abuse and neglect law. Animal owners previously could be charged with abuse for knowingly failing to provide adequate care or control. Under the legislation, owners who lose control of their animals for at least 12 hours can be charged with animal trespass. The first violation is an infraction.

Love supported the veto override but said he did not prompt that legislation and would not have considered trying to change the law on his own. There was sufficient support to override the veto without his vote.

Simmons wrote in court documents that Love had knowingly failed to provide adequate control of his cattle.

Love took office in November.

“I feel like a load has been lifted off my shoulders,” he said.

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