Glenwood City farmer pleads in cow sale caseA Glenwood City farmer who sold 51 dairy cows pledged as collateral on a U.S. Department of Agriculture farm loan pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to a misdemeanor.
By: By Kevin Murphy, New Richmond News
MADISON – A Glenwood City farmer who sold 51 dairy cows pledged as collateral on a U.S. Department of Agriculture farm loan pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to a misdemeanor.
James Weyer’s lack of prior convictions, juror sympathies for farmers, and the likelihood of receiving the same sentence influenced the government to reduce the charge from a felony, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Anderson.
Weyer, of 1536 300 th St., took out a $132,000 Farm Service Agency consolidation loan in April 2003 secured by his dairy herd, equipment and other items not listed as collateral on other loans, said Anderson.
Weyer twice signed agreements not to sell his collateral without FSA authorization. When Weyer wanted to sell his cows to start a trucking business in October 2005, he was again denied permission by FSA agent Jim Peterson in a meeting also attended by an employee of the Hiawatha Bank in Glenwood City.
Instead, Weyer sold 51 dairy cows for $47,387 last November paying $33,000 to some of his creditors, and spending $14,000 to buy a semi-trailer and pay other expenses, Anderson said.
When the FSA learned of the sale Weyer admitted he knew it wasn’t lawful to sell the cows without the agency’s approval but wanted to go into trucking to supplement his farming income, said Anderson.
Neither Weyer nor his attorney Alan Habermehl disputed Anderson’s statements.
Federal Magistrate Stephen Crocker accepted Weyer’s guilty plea to the unauthorized sale of collateral and set sentencing for July 22. Weyer will face maximum penalties of six months in prison, a $100,000 fine, five years probation and restitution to the FSA.
Anderson said Weyer faced the same possible sentence, 0-6 six months in jail whether he was convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, based on his lack of prior convictions, amount of loss and nature of the victim.
“Had this been a more egregious case, where a farmer sold the cows and took off for Las Vegas, it would have been treated differently,” Anderson said after court.
Anderson said he will recommend a sentence of no jail and probation to allow Weyer to continue working to pay off his loans, which will protect the FSA’s interest. Pleading guilty to a misdemeanor obtains a conviction, some deterrent effect and a criminal restitution order to the FSA that Weyer can’t discharge if he would declare bankruptcy.
Weyer has paid down his FSA loan from $132,000 to an outstanding balance of $88,000 while “making a genuine effort to operate his farm,” Anderson said.
Anderson also acknowledged that he was taking a risk in putting on trial a farmer without a criminal record who wants to continue working.
“Jurors tend to have more sympathy for working people as opposed to someone who targets innocent victims to defraud them. There’s no question he had to turn over the sale proceeds of his cows to the FSA. But in the scheme of things he would have gotten the same sentence whether it was a felony or misdemeanor,” Anderson said.
Habermehl agreed that predicting what jurors may have done at the trial scheduled for May 12 is “iffy” at best.
“We can only hope that they would see themselves (in Weyer) and had some sympathy but we won’t know that now,” he said.