Electric Horsemen

Is a rodeo mafia covering up evidence of animal abuse in California?

Then there's the biggest question of all: If the zappers or noisemakers or whatever the hell they are are harmless, why do the tapes show the cowboys slyly hiding them?

These are questions you'd think a prosecutor might ask alleged lawbreakers before a judge or jury. But since no one's ever asked that in a California courtroom, Hindi—ever the gentleman—answers that last question on behalf of the rodeos:

"They always hide it because this violates their own rules and it violates the product manufacturer's own guidelines."

The makers of the Hot Shot Electric Cattle Prod "only recommend our product be used on hogs and cattle . . . not on horses because they are much too sensitive. . . . We do not recommend these products be used in rodeos."

The last line's the kicker:

"Check with local law agencies to determine your state's laws regarding the product."

* * *

The Weekly tried to check with the Orange County Sheriff's Department about the horse-zapping case that's been tossed back into their laps, but despite a media official there saying the investigating officer would get back to us, he never did.

We do know that, at the urging of the animal-rights groups, the Sheriff's Department investigated the incidents and forwarded its findings to the Orange County district attorney's office for possible prosecution.

"The case was reviewed by the OCDA," reads a statement the DA's media relations office recently sent to the Weekly. "OCDA declined to file any criminal charge based on a lack of sufficient evidence. It was sent back to OCSD [Orange County Sheriff's Department] sometime in December."

It was mighty white of the DA's office to respond, considering all the shit Rackauckas has been through in the past few years. Since being elected DA in 1998, he has been blasted for intervening in the legal process on behalf of wealthy contributors; raiding the public treasury to pay outrageous booze bills for his top staff; doing nothing when investigators turned up evidence that his No. 2 man double-billed taxpayers for questionable expenses; brokering a pro-polluter settlement with ARCO; launching personal, unsavory espionage missions against perceived foes; turning his public office into de facto campaign headquarters for friends seeking office; overseeing a legal team that was eventually proved responsible for several wrongful convictions; benefiting politically from the convenient six-month disappearance of his wife and another DA employee whom the county grand jury sought for questioning; and having unusually close ties to a figure his own office was investigating for alleged ties to organized crime—until Rackauckas put the kibosh on the probe and eventually fired or watched just about every one of his staffers involved in the matter leave.

As a result, he has been blasted in the local media (including this very rag); spanked by a 100-page county grand jury report; and vilified by state Attorney General Bill Lockyer for heading what Lockyer told the Weekly is "the most mismanaged" DA's office in the state.

For months, the DA blamed the bad news on foes in his office. Only recently, upon taking the oath of office for a second term, did he issue a limp mea culpa for the mistakes he made in his first term. But the OCPA and SHARK believe their case proves our embattled DA is once again failing to nail someone at the behest of campaign donors.

The critter cradlers point to the DA's own campaign disclosure forms. Gloria Brandes, owner of the Oaks Blenheim Exhibitions where the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo is held, has given Rackauckas nearly $1,000, while the executive assistant of Brandes' husband has tossed in more than $600. Among rodeo sponsors who contributed to Rackauckas campaigns are Whispering Hills Development Co. ($1,000), Briggs Electric owner Steven Briggs ($1,000), Allen Packing Co. ($1,000), Capistrano Ford owner Brian Beeman ($500), Shur-Lok owner Robert W. Rohe ($500) and Hunsaker & Associates ($250).

A Folsom police official who requested anonymity suggested that because SHARK has produced tapes secretly shot at Flying U rodeos in his town, Orange County and elsewhere—and because none of those jurisdictions pressed charges—the activists are hounding poor ol' Cotton Rosser.

The cop went on to say that the Folsom Rodeo is sponsored by those upstanding citizens known collectively as the Folsom Chamber of Commerce. He said no one's ever had a problem with Rosser. He said it wouldn't make sense for a stock contractor to harm his own animals because they are so valuable.

Hindi responds that his group monitors rodeos all over the country and that Rosser just happens to be one of the leading promoters of the events in California. "We're not picking on him, but he does have a long history of doing this kind of thing," he says.

He calls the clown caught on tape in Orange County "a serial shocker."

However, in the interest of full disclosure—and to show cops everywhere we don't totally suck off their critics—it should be pointed out that Hindi has been incarcerated for his animal activism. A decade ago, he interfered with hunters and got tossed in the pokey.

Ironically, Hindi had been a hunter most of his life. But something changed when he reached middle age and witnessed a live pigeon shoot in Pennsylvania. The blood and gore got to him. Besides being a hunter, he was a fisherman too. But after watching all those defenseless pigeons die, he went home, took a mounted fish off his wall and gave it a proper burial—in dirt, not the sea. (He lives in Illinois; give him a break.)

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