Scott Watson, prosecuting attorney, had filed charges against the four defendants based upon information supplied to him by the Newton County Sheriff's Department. The complaint alleged that the defendants were disposing of chickens in a manner not compliant with the laws of the State of Missouri. Rick Bussey, with the aid of his video camera, caught the MoArk contractors on tape allowing live chickens to proceed down a conveyor belt and be smothered by each other in a dumpster. Kevin Stephenson, a deputy with the Newton County Sheriff's Department, investigated the complaint, although when he asked MoArk workers if he could see the method used to gas the chickens, he was turned down.
All charges have been dropped without prejudice--meaning if the problem isn't alleviated, the issue could be revisited--against William Ross Sharp and Robert Ray Beck, MoArk's Midwest regional manager Dan Hudgens and the company itself due to an agreement made by MoArk to finance the construction of a new facility for the New-Mac Regional Humane Society located in Neosho at a cost of $100,000. No mention was made by Watson of who at MoArk agreed to the check, or, perhaps, suggested it, but many believe that Jerry Wells, MoArk's vice president and COO who campaignMoney.com lists as a major contributor to Republican coffers, was involved.
Watson seemed convinced that MoArk has done everything it can do to solve the problem, a solution, he says, that includes the elimination of live birds ever being dumped in a trailer with MoArk providing supervision for every phase of the process of destroying spent chickens.
"If a jury or judge trial was held and the defendants were found guilty, the fine would not exceed $1000 on the individual defendants and $3000 on the corporate defendant MoArk, Watson told a group assembled for a press conference today. "As in all cases, I attempted to determine what recourse or solution would best serve the victim and the community."
Rather than allowing the possibility of a precedent-setting case coming to trial, Watson chose to allow MoArk to write a check. It is only conjecture that Watson's decision might have something to do with his future decision to run for the office of Missouri attorney general.