Maryland State’s Attorney Acquits Perdue Farms of Cruelty Charges

In an odd outcome the Worcester County State’s Attorney, Joel Todd, essentially acquitted Perdue Farms of charges of animal cruelty that the company faced in Maryland.

The case began when Compassion Over Killing charged the chicken producer with animal cruelty. COK outreach coordinator Joshua Balk worked at a Perdue plant in Showell, Maryland, which has since been closed.

While an employee, Balk videotaped the processing line, and later turned that videotape over to prosecutors claiming that it showed animal abuse and the results of what COK believes is improper or non-existent training of workers.

Todd met with Worcester County Sheriff Chuck Martin, Compassion Over Killing general counsel Carter Dillard, and Balk. At that time, Todd expressed his view that the videotape did not show a crime. He told The Maryland Coast Dispatch,

We all met and reviewed the tapes together. I felt the evidence lacked merit, and there was no probable cause that Perdue Farms was guilty of any crime based on the information provided to me. They committed no crime.

But after viewing the tape for himself, Worcester County District Commissioner Earline Loomis decided that the evidence on the videotape did warrant prosecution of Perdue Farms for animal cruelty.

Under Maryland law, however, a state’s attorney can “confess a verdict of not guilty” which effectively pre-empts a trial and functions the same as a not guilty verdict in that the defendant cannot be retried on the charge. According to the Maryland Coast Dispatch, this is rarely used, but Todd invoked this power nonetheless to pre-empt the Perdue Farms trial and effectively acquit the company of the abuse charges.

The decision to do so certainly caught Compassion Over Killing by surprise. Dillard told The Maryland Coast Dispatch,

In essence, the state intervened and prevented Perdue from ever having to go to court and be put in the spotlight to face these charges. We are very disappointed that Mr. Todd chose this very unusual procedure.

. . .

It is odd that you can get an acquittal, without the defendant even having to appear in court. This cut out the availability of public input . . .

Compassion Over Killing campaign director Erica Neier add,

The bottom line is that this sends a message that in Worcester County, corporations, especially Perdue Farms, don’t have to abide by Maryland’s animal cruelty laws. So, companies can handle animals in any manner they see fit.


Todd acquits Perdue of all charges in cruelty case. Benjamin Mook, The Maryland Coast Dispatch, February 4, 2005.

Lawyer Who Defended Activist Faces More Legal Problems

Utah defense attorney Geoffrey Clark was back in the news this month after the lawyer was arrested in a drug sting — Clark allegedly offered his legal services in exchange for drugs.

Clark has a long history of accusation of unethical acts from suborning perjury to driving under the influence of marijuana. One of those cases saw Clark being acquitted of suborning perjury in a case involving an animal rights terrorist.

In 1997, Clark represented animal rights extremist Trev Poulson, then 19, who tried to burn down a fur store. A security guard at Montgomery Fur Company in West Haven, Utah, observed three people trying to light gasoline they had spread on and around the store.

Poulson’s accomplices in the attempted arson, Cameron Kraus and Bret Walton, both agreed to plead guilty to aggravate arson and received sentences of just 30 days in jail and 30 days of home confinement. Poulson rejected a plea bargain and went to trial. His girlfriend, Gretta Schin, testified that at the time Poulson was supposed to be trying to commit arson, he was in fact with her.

The jury didn’t believe any of it, and convicted Poulson. He was sentenced to two years in jail.

But shortly after his conviction, Poulson reached an agreement with prosecutors to testify against Clark. As a result, Poulson served only a few months in jail before his sentence was suspended and he was given 36 months probation.

At Clark’s 1999 perjury trial, Poulson testified that he wanted to take the same plea bargain deal offered to Kraus and Walton, but that Clark had a vendetta against the prosecutor and talked Poulson into going to trial.

Poulson testified that he and Schin conspired to have Schin falsely testify that the two were together at the time of the arson (both Poulson and Schin were granted immunity from prosecution on perjury charges before testifying). But Poulson’s testimony backfired against prosecutor’s in Clark’s case. Poulson testified that Clark had coached them on how to lie, but said he couldn’t remember if the idea to produce Schin as a false alibi witness was his or Clark’s.

The jury in Clark’s case, as in Poulson’s case, simply didn’t believe either Poulson or Schin. The jury foreman told the Associated Press that neither Poulson nor Schin were credible.

Clark was acquitted on all charges.


Attorney acquitted on perjury charge. Associated Press, April 24, 1999.

Attorney’s former clients say they were told to lie. Associated Press, December 2, 1998.

‘Bad-boy’ lawyer has own legal woes. Stephen Hunt, The Salt Lake Tribune, November 26, 2004.