Jury convicts Moffat County rancher on cattle charges

Monty Pilgrim guilty on 15 of 27 counts in district court

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Monty Luke Pilgrim

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“I’m glad the truth came out and justice was done in this case. I hope a message has been sent that we take these ranching crimes seriously in Moffat County.”

— Han Ng, Moffat County deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, about Friday's verdict against local rancher Monty Pilgrim

A Moffat County jury returned guilty verdicts Friday against a Little Snake River rancher charged with violating state cattle statutes.

Monty Luke Pilgrim, 52, was found guilty in Moffat County District Court on five counts of theft of agricultural animals, a Class 4 felony; five counts of concealing strays, a Class 6 felony; and five counts of wrongful branding, a Class 6 felony.

The verdict was delivered about 3 p.m. Friday to senior judge David Lass after almost 24 hours of deliberations. Pilgrim's trial began Monday.

“I’m glad the truth came out and justice was done in this case,” said Han Ng, Moffat County deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. “I hope a message has been sent that we take these ranching crimes seriously in Moffat County.”

Pilgrim was charged with nine counts for each of the three felonies, one for each of the alleged victims in the case.

The jury found Pilgrim guilty of theft of agricultural animals, concealing strays and wrongful branding against John Wiebel, George Evans, Stanley Peroulis, John Raftopoulos and Rick Myers.

The jury returned not guilty verdicts on counts pertaining to Lonnie Hedges, Kelli Shetler, Thomas Grieves and Thomas Chant.

Pilgrim’s attorneys, Ed Nugent, of Grand Junction, and Kris Hammond, of Steamboat Springs, set to discredit Hedges, who first reported the alleged crimes in July 2011, during the trial.

But Ng believes it was the presentation of facts, not a perceived rift between Hedges and Pilgrim, that swayed the jury’s decision.

“From the way the evidence came out I think there was a bit more visible evidence on the victims the jury found him guilty on,” Ng said. “For example, in his interview with (Moffat County Sheriff’s Office) deputy (Gary) Nichols, the defendant admitted to putting the ear tag into Mr. Raftopoulos’ cow.”

Nugent and Hammond declined to comment following the verdict.

Pilgrim is scheduled to be sentenced at 11 a.m. Sept. 20.

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