A federal defense attorney is trying to get a search warrant for Mike Chilinski’s Jefferson City home thrown out, which could also force alleged evidence of animal cruelty and marijuana manufacturing and distribution to become inadmissible.
In court documents filed this week in U.S. District Court in Helena, Michael Donahoe writes that the magistrate who issued a search warrant for Chilinski’s home last year did so based upon an officer’s statement that the conditions of his kennels had been a long standing and consistent problem. Donahoe writes that the officer erroneously told the magistrate there were at least five other written reports from other deputies that suggested animal neglect or cruelty in 2011.
“… that statement was intended to tell the issuing magistrate that this animal cruelty business was a long standing problem at (the) defendant’s residence,” Donahoe wrote, adding that “not only were there not five
written reports by other deputies, the historical record actually showed that defendant had been cleared of animal cruelty suspicion in 2009-2010 by Dr. (Sue) Geske.
“… there was insufficient probable cause to issue the original animal cruelty warrant and therefore the subsequent warrants for drugs must likewise fail as a result.”
Chilinski was arrested on animal cruelty charges on Oct. 12, 2011, after a raid on his property uncovered an alleged puppy mill operation by Chilinski. At the time the dogs were removed there were 160 dogs, but many were pregnant at the time and that number has now grown to 200. The Lewis and Clark Humane Society has been caring for the dogs since then.
Authorities say the dogs were malnourished and many were in poor condition at the time they were taken, living in pens that were a “messy jumble of feces, both solid and liquid” and in many cases without water.
He’s facing district court charges in the animal cruelty case.
Chilinski disputes that. In an affidavit also filed in federal court, Chilinski said he’s been champion sled dog malamutes for more than 30 years.
“Being a breeder that often breeds over seven litters a year puts me automatically on a list for AKC inspections,” he said under oath. “Having had two recent inspections by AKC representative Gene Brennan, I felt confident I was obeying all laws and the stricter AKC rules. The police were aware of the fact the AKC had inspected me because I often would remind them that the expert from AKC had found no health or care issues.”
He said the police started visiting his property due to alleged complaints beginning in 2009, and he felt he was being targeted, so he met with the Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle to talk about his concerns. He said Doolittle assured him that if his operation passed an inspection by a veterinarian, that the matter would be put to rest.
“I was not issued a copy of the report but later was told my kennels were fine,” Chilinski said.
However, he was visited again by a deputy on June 11, 2011, who inspected and filmed the property, and “to my horror” they found a dead dog. Chilinski said the dog was well fed and had several buckets of water, and he theorized to the officer that the dog died due to bloating caused by a change in dog food.
He adds that during that visit, the deputy looked inside a greenhouse where Chilinski was growing marijuana. Chilinski said he had a state-issued medical marijuana card.
During his arrest on 90 animal cruelty charges, the same officer asked Chilinski what else they might find while searching the property, which is when Chilinski mentioned the marijuana in the greenhouse.
A grand jury indicted Chilinski in May on federal charges for one count of manufacture of marijuana and one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana for knowingly manufacturing 100 or more plants.
Donahoe also is trying to get Chilinski’s statements about the marijuana to be suppressed, saying he wasn’t read his Miranda rights by the officer prior to their discussion.
Chilinski said he felt compelled to answer the question since he was under arrest.
Reporter Eve Byron: