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May trial set for two men accused of releasing mink at South Jordan farm

Published March 5, 2009 5:27 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Two men have been indicted for allegedly releasing hundreds of minks from a South Jordan farm and destroying breeding records.

Prosecutors say the crime resulted in more than $10,000 in damages.

William Viehl, 22, of Layton, and Alex Hall, 20, of Ogden, each face one felony count in connection with an Aug 19, 2008 incident. The pair allegedly opened hundreds of pens and destroyed breeding records at the McMullin mink farm.

The potential penalty is up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The two, arrested Thursday, pleaded innocent Friday during their arraignment. U.S. Magistrate Brooke Wells set a May 11 trial date. They are also charged in an Oct. 19, 2008 incident at a Hyrum farm, where prosecutors say they also attempted to release minks.

The misdemeanor count carries a potential penalty of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Most of the estimated 600 mink released from South Jordan were recovered, but farm owner Lindsey McMullin told The Associated Press in August that several animals died after being struck by cars or from stress caused by the release. Other surviving minks were dehydrated and lethargic.

"While we recognize and respect the strongly held beliefs of those who advocate for animal rights, when their actions cross over the line into criminal conduct, we are going to take aggressive action," said U.S. Attorney Brett L. Tolman. "Regardless of your opinion, the fur industry is lawful and provides income for many Utah families."

The Animal Liberation Front's Web site at the time of the release praised a Utah "soldier" for the act.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.