Tiny Texas community shaken by arrest of official over cattle rustling

A senior official in west 텍사스 has been arrested over cattle rustling in a case that has stirred up anger in the tiny county of Loving.

Skeet Lee Jones, 71, a judge and chief elected official in the county, faces three counts of theft of livestock worth less than $150,000 and one of engaging in organised criminal activity after his arrest on Friday, the sheriff of neighbouring Winkler county, Darin Mitchell, 일요일에 말했다.

Mitchell said three other men were arrested alongside Jones and all four defendants have been released on bond. The arrests resulted from a year-long investigation by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, which has commissioned law enforcement officers who investigate agricultural crimes such as cattle theft, Mitchell added.

Mitchell said the association’s officers alleged Jones and his accused accomplices took stray cattle and sold them without obeying procedures mandated by the state agriculture code. Those procedures require people to report stray livestock to the sheriff and allow for a chance to find the animals’ owners, 그는 말했다.

Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

His cousin Brandon Jones is a constable, an elected law enforcement officer, for the county.

“He’s had free rein for the entire time since he’s been the judge,” Brandon Jones told NBC News. “That’s given him a sense of power and impunity that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. Even the feeling of self-righteousness. That he can do no wrong.”

Susan Hays, an election lawyer who has clashed with Jones, told NBC News she could not believe he would “risk real trouble” by allegedly stealing cattle.

“It’s a pain in the ass to round up cattle and take them to market,” Hays said.

Jones has been the county judge of Loving since 2007 and earns an annual salary of more than $133,000. He has been re-elected multiple times without opposition, illustrating his power and influence in his community.

Loving county – where the oil and gas economies generate billions of dollars in taxes – sits along the Texas border with New Mexico and is the state’s least populated county, with just 57 주민, according to the US Census Bureau.

텍사스에서, county judges are essentially their local government’s chief executives, having broad administrative as well as judicial powers.

No other details about the allegations against Jones were immediately available. 유죄 판결을 받은 경우, he could receive up to 10 years in prison per livestock theft count and up to 20 years imprisonment for organised criminal activity.

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