Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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January 30, 2014

Theft case draws not guilty verdict

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — After a few hours of deliberations this week a Garvin County jury decided it was not guilty for a man accused of withholding information about stolen cattle.

The case against Robert Scott Claiborne, 24, involved four head of cattle alleged to have been stolen in early February 2012 from property just south of Pauls Valley.

State officials argued it was Claiborne who brokered a deal to sell the stolen animals to a landowner in nearby Murray County.

A six-woman, six-man jury wrapped up a three-day trial earlier this week by delivering the not guilty verdict in a Garvin County District courtroom.

The verdict actually came Monday evening after earlier in the day jurors heard closing arguments from both sides of the case, which formally was for a charge of knowingly concealing stolen property.

Laura Shaeffer, an assistant district attorney in Garvin County, told jurors it was Claiborne who delivered and sold the cattle, while on two occasions telling the owner he knew nothing about the four missing cows.

“Mr. Rennie wants you to believe Mr. Claiborne didn’t know anything about the cattle,” Shaeffer said, referring to PV defense attorney Robert Rennie Jr.

“That’s not true. If he truly didn’t know anything about the stolen cattle is it reasonable to believe he was delivering cattle for nothing,” she said.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

To bolster the state’s argument, Shaeffer sent five state witnesses to the stand during the testimony phase of the trial late last week.

They included area residents with some connection to the case, along with the case’s lead investigator, Special Agent Paul Cornett of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, who was the one tracking down the cattle after they were reported stolen by their owner almost exactly two years ago.

“Mr. Claiborne was the one who hauled those cattle from where they were to Murray County,” Shaeffer said.

“He never said he might have sold the stolen cattle,” she said about Claiborne twice telling the owner he had no knowledge of where the missing cattle could be found.

When it was his turn to address jurors Rennie defended his client by saying it was the bigger picture that warranted a not guilty verdict.

“I’m asking you to listen to all the evidence and not just pick out what the D.A. wants you to hear,” Rennie said.

“I can only surmise the state is claiming Mr. Claiborne was out there opening gates,” he said. “The evidence just doesn’t show that.”

The only defense witness during the trial was Claiborne himself, who continued to deny having any knowledge the cattle were stolen.

“He hauled the cattle,” Rennie argued. “He’s not participating in the sale of stolen cattle.

“With the evidence as a whole you will find the state has not proven that Mr. Claiborne was guilty.”

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