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OWNERS WIN A DELAY FOR HEARING

SHARE OWNERS WIN A DELAY FOR HEARING

A preliminary hearing for the owners of Ligertown was postponed until Nov. 6.

The hearing was supposed to determine whether there was enough evidence on two felony charges to bind the couple over for trial.The delay was granted after the defense explained and the prosecution admitted Bannock County prosecutors hadn't complied with discovery rules in the time allowed. Those rules order the prosecution to share any evidence in the case with the defense.

Dotti Martin and Robert Fieber owned and lived in a homemade compound with 46 lions and ligers in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. On Sept. 20 a neighbor shot and killed a female lion that was outside the compound. He then called police, who said more than a dozen lions were on the loose in the tiny tourist town.

School was closed and many people stayed in doors until the next afternoon when police said they'd killed all of the lions that escaped. Bannock County deputies then obtained search warrants, banned the owners from the property and removed all the lions and more than 40 hybrid-wolves.

The compound was in extreme disrepair and full of garbage and carcasses. The county is now in the process of condemning the property. The lions and ligers are in a wildlife preserve in California and the wolves are in Roberts, Idaho.

Defense Attorney Kim Claussen said he will attempt to get the 84 counts of animal cruelty and two counts of possessing endangered species dismissed at a hearing Nov. 17.

Before either hearing, an Oct. 31 proceeding is scheduled to decide whether cameras will be barred from the courtroom. Claussen said both the defense and prosecution agree on the motion to keep cameras out.

"That's pretty unusual in a criminal case," Claussen said of their agreement on the matter, concerned that courtroom photos would further complicate future jury selection. "We have a small county from which we have to select a jury."

"The jury pool will be tainted," he said. The two sides also agreed on a gag order that restrains the Bannock County sheriff's officials and Martin and Fieber from talking with the media about the case.

"The attorneys in the case will be limited by rules of professional conduct," he said. "We've all agreed that they will not talk about the merits of the case. It's not something that in any way binds the media."

He said both sides sought the gag order for the same reasons they're seeking to keep cameras from the court room.