Trial gets underway for Preston teacher accused of animal cruelty

Robert Crosland listens as potential jurors are asked questions during his misdemeanor animal cruelty case, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, in Preston, Idaho. Crosland is on trial for allegedly feeding a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students at Preston Junior High School.

Opening arguments are scheduled Friday morning in the trial of a Preston biology teacher accused of feeding a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students.

Jury selection in the case of junior high school teacher Robert Crosland began at 9 am on Thursday. It took attorneys on both sides of the aisle more than 8 hours to seat six jurors and one alternate. They started from a pool of 64 potential jurors.

“For this type of case, this is abnormal,” according to Crosland’s attorney Shane Reichert, “but I wouldn’t say I was surprised.”

“The fact of the matter is this is a small community and a lot of people are well aware of the incident,” Reichert said. “The reality is that we were able to pick a jury fairly easily.”

The incident Reichert is referring to happened last March when Crosland allegedly fed a sick puppy to a snapping turtle in front of a small group of students at the school in Preston.

The case was investigated by the Franklin County Sheriff’s office and eventually turned over to the Idaho Attorney General who charged Crosland with misdemeanor animal cruelty.

The story of Crosland garnered state, national and international attention after news of the allegations were reported by local media organizations.

Attorney David Morse had requested the trial be moved outside of Franklin County due to the intense media attention and local support for Crosland, but the request was denied by Oneida County Magistrate Judge David Hooste.

Reichert says regardless of the outcome of the trial he believes his client is innocent. Crosland “is an upstanding human being that has done more for this community than probably most individuals will every know,” he said. “The only people that will really understand that is this community, so we are hopeful we will have a fair jury and be able to communicate our defense.”

Crosland is back in the classroom teaching science at the junior high school despite the charges against him.

If convicted of the animal cruelty charge, Crosland faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

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