Criminal Charges For Wright County Farm Break-In Dropped
Criminal charges have been dropped for a man accused of breaking into a Wright County hog operation, placing hidden cameras, and stealing a piglet- just before the case saw a jury trial.
In an article by The Messenger, Matthew Johnson was facing third-degree burglary, electronic eavesdropping, and agricultural production facility trespassing charges and was scheduled to go to trial today.
According to the court documents, Johnson and an accomplice, Linda Cridge, entered Iowa Select Farms Hog Site Sow 117 on May 25th between 1 and 3 am without permission. The two placed two cameras giving off live video streams along with an audio recording device within the facility. They also left external battery packs and an internet hotspot.
Video surveillance also shows that when the two left, Johnson was carrying a 12-pound piglet.
Johnson is an investigator with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). According to a release from DxE, he was charged after capturing “video and audio recordings of pigs screaming in agony for several hours as they died. Thousands of pigs were exterminated at Iowa Select Farms using ventilation shutdown after COVID-19 outbreaks caused the closure of many slaughterhouses.”
Violation of “Ag-Gag” Laws
Ag-gag laws in Iowa, a person can face criminal action for “food operation Trespass” if they enter or remain on the property of a farm without consent.
Johnson motioned to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the ag-gag laws are unconstitutional under the First Amendment- a motion that was denied.
Write County District Court Judge Deric Johnson dismissed the charges with prejudice. This means he can not be charged the same crimes again for the offense.