VIRGINIA CITY -Three men accused of killing and maiming 27 wild horses in December, said Friday that they will challenge the legality of the charges leveled against them.
At the 10 a.m. arraignment in the First Judicial District Court in Virginia City, lawyers for Darien Brock, 21, Scott Brendle, 22, and Anthony Merlino, 20, all of Reno, said there is no Nevada felony that applies to killing wild horses.
Although a trial has been scheduled for April 17 through May 5 of 2000, defense attorneys will likely ask Judge Michael Griffin to dismiss the case, said Mark Picker, Brock's attorney.
During the arraignment, the three defendants in the case did not enter a plea because, according to Merlino's attorney Scott Freeman, that would prohibit them from challenging the state's charges.
The trio is accused of shooting more than two-dozen mustangs in a canyon near Lockwood just south of Interstate 80 on Dec. 27.
They face a felony charge of killing another person's animal worth more than $5,000 - in this case the states' animals - and a gross misdemeanor charge of maiming or injuring an animal worth between $250 and $5000. The felony carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine while the misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to a year in the Storey County Jail.
A lack of physical evidence will likely play a strong part at trial. Defense lawyers contend that none of the bullets, bullet fragments, spent cartridges or footprints found at the crime scenes, has been linked to any of the three suspects.
At the time of the investigation of the horse killings, Merlino told Washoe County Detective Larry Camfield that when they saw newspaper accounts of the killings, they went back to their campsite to pick up spent shell casings, beer cans and bottles. Brock also told investigators he tried to return to the campsite, but got lost.
A spent .270-caliber shell casing, the same caliber as Merlino's hunting rifle, was found at a camp site a half mile from the nearest carcass.
When news of the potential involvement of then-Marine Lance Cpl. Darien Brock broke, a civilian investigator from Naval Criminal Investigative services interrogated him at the Southern California Base where he was stationed. Eventually he and Brendle, who was also a lance corporal, were given the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge.