From Behind a Minivan to Under the Bus: Abusing Both a 9-Month-Old Colt and the Post-Conviction Relief Act

Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on April 16, 2012

Michael A. Tabor of Branson, Missouri tied a 9-month-old colt to the back of a minivan and drove at speeds approaching 35 MPH. The reason? He wanted to halter break this poor young horse. Over the course of the ordeal, Mr. Tabor stopped the minivan no less than three times to check on the horse–each time finding the colt in dire straights, but Mr. Tabor just kept on driving. Somehow, the colt stayed on his feet, keeping his head down and attempting to resist the force of the vehicle. When Mr. Tabor’s “training session” ended, the colt was seriously injured and breathing heavily, soaked in sweat, and shaking violently–no doubt suffering from shock due to his many injuries. One can only image the extreme pain this young guy was enduring. The appellate court describes one of the colt’s injuries this way: “The colt’s hind hooves and bone were worn away all the way into the joint, indicating that the colt had objected to being dragged behind the van and had braced its legs to resist.” Stated more directly: the defendant ground this poor animal’s rear hooves off. Due to the severity of his injuries, the onset of infection, and the colt’s uncontrollable pain, a veterinarian euthanized him.

It took the trial jury less than 50 minutes to convict Tabor of the Class D felony of animal abuse; Tabor was sentenced to seven years in prison. Tabor appealed and lost. One would think that should be the end of this tragic story, but of course it is not…

In true narcissistic form, Tabor, still unwilling to accept responsibility for his crime, filed a petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). PCR is a statutory civil remedy that allows a convicted offender who has exhausted his direct appeal to collaterally attack his conviction on a handful of technical grounds–in this case, Tabor complained that his trial attorney was constitutionally inadequate. Based on his “ineffective assistance of counsel” claim, Tabor’s hoped to secure a new trial and a second bite at the apple.

Here is where the story shifts from outrageously tragic to just plain outrageous. In his PCR petition, Tabor’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim was based on the fact that Tabor’s trial attorney had the audacity to rely on Tabor’s own statements that he (Tabor) had never previously abused a horse.

This is what happened: At trial, and in direct reliance on the veracity of his client’s denial of past abuse, Tabor’s trial attorney asked a state’s witness who also happened to be acquainted with Tabor if the witness had ever seen Tabor beat any other horses before. Much to the surprise of defense counsel (but certainly not to Mr. Tabor), the witness responded with a less than flattering answer of “yes” she had. Though the defense attorney tried to mitigate the damage, with the evidentiary door now wide open, when the prosecutor got the witness back for redirect examination, the jury learned of the defendant’s many prior acts of animal abuse (e.g., kicking a horse in the genitalia, leaving a horse tied to a tree for protracted periods of time, and cutting a horse’s penis with a pocket knife). Couple the aggravated nature of the charged conduct with these earlier acts of cruelty and it is certainly no surprise that the jury convicted Tabor in less than an hour’s time, but I digress.

Undaunted by his misrepresentations to counsel (or his lack of success on direct appeal), Mr. Tabor took no hesitation in throwing his trial attorney under the bus by filing this PCR case–the unmitigated and manifest arrogance of this guy! Tabor’s moral shortcomings notwithstanding, we are happy to report that Tabor lost his PCR case in both the trial court where Tabor’s PCR petition was originally litigated and in the Missouri’s Southern District Court of Appeals. In resoundingly rejecting Tabor’s specious claims, our only regret is that the judges forced to entertain such nonsense didn’t sanction Tabor for filing a frivolous case.

17 thoughts on “From Behind a Minivan to Under the Bus: Abusing Both a 9-Month-Old Colt and the Post-Conviction Relief Act

  1. Tess Goodman says:

    May this POS rot in hell…

  2. Deborah Mitchell says:

    I am so glad Tabor was sentenced to 7 years in prison, and am elated that he was not successful with the appeal process. In addition, when he gets out of prison, he should never be allowed to work with animals or own any animals. I am such a fan of the ALDF and their work on behalf of animals. Thank you for all you do on behalf of the voiceless victims of abuse and/or neglect!!

  3. Ron Shaw says:

    In Kentucky, the land of horses, he would have been charged with a misedemeanor- suspended sentence and a fine. We need outside help with our bass-ackward laws. We need lobbying next legislative session. A LOT of people are SICK of it.

  4. Dawn Day says:

    I am sure God saves a special place in hell for people like this. I am glad he is in prison.

  5. Maryann Davis says:

    The more I hear about humans , the less I like them….. I am in Tennessee and it is a hard road to attempt to educate our representatives in Nashville, with regard to even upholding sub standard laws already in place, let alone making new laws… But we march forward. I wish that one day, people from all fifty states could gather and have a conference, and share ways to make changes with state and federal leaders..

  6. Meech! says:

    May his cellmate have a pocketknife and the urge to use it…

  7. Betty Gundi says:

    They should put him on a public trial over reality TV and let us all vote on his fake. I believe the vote would come in at 100% to tie him behind his mini van and pull him down the high way at 35 miles per hour and see if he could ran and keep up. If he couldn’t keep up then drag him for the remainder of the same distance that he did to this young horse. Love to see how he would handle the pain and shock to his body. How stupid can people be? I hate people who are so cruel to animals and babies and children.
    What he did is an Out Rage.
    Then for him to denied he did anything wrong, only leaves the public in more of an Out Rage.
    I hope some one in prison, beats the living hell out of him and leaves in pain and shock as he did to this poor animal who simply trusted the wrong person. How did he ever get this poor horse in the first place?

    I rescued a lot of animals, and this just makes me angry and out raged that he only got 7 years. Hopefully in prison, some one will give him some pain.

  8. k. says:

    Can’t believe he only got 7 years. He should have gotten 70. I really hope fellow inmates who love animals will give him a warm welcome.

  9. Justina Meade says:

    Guess he needs the same treatment…there is a special place in hell for people like him…

  10. kim vakula says:

    My gut reaction to this article is, thank God that in Missourri they at least have and enforce FELONY Animal Cruelty laws. Most states really don’t. Very sad story but when looking at the bigger picture, if other states would give people prison time for cruelty to animals….. oh “what a wonderful world this would be….”

  11. Emily Johnson says:

    As a fellow equestrian and law student, this story made me sick. I could hardly get past the headline. But I’m certainly glad I did. Was that ignorant and inhumane incident worth seven years of his life? He’ll have plenty of time to think about it. Good work ALDF.

  12. Dawn says:

    While i wish he got more than seven years, most states do not have strong animal cruelty laws.

    I have a hard time believing this guy never hurt a person?? and if by some freak he hasn’t..YET! Give it time, he will!!

    He tried to use the court systems own rules to exonerate himself of all responsibility. He has a screw loose, and hopefully the other inmates sense that and beat the life out of him.. LITERALLY!!

  13. laurel carsillo says:

    what the heck is the matter with people today????? i can’t believe the cruelty!!

  14. Lori T. says:

    Yup, tie him up behind a minivan and make him run, kick his genitalia, cut his penis…then put in prison for 7 years! maybe infection will set in and he’ll have to be euthanized by the vet!

  15. That’s great news, thank you!

  16. Trish says:

    These people should be banned from ever owning any kind of animal again…and have their penises cut with a pocketknift

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