The first known charges ever brought under a state “ag-gag” law were dismissed Tuesday in Utah.
The would-be offender was 25-year-old Amy Meyer who last Feb. 8 was using her cellphone camera to film the Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing Co. in Draper, Utah from public sidewalks.
Meyer said she began using her cellphone camera after observing instances of animal cruelty, but never left public property. Her presence was apparently reported to local police by the meat packing company as possible trespassing after she refused to leave the area.
Meyer, who plead not guilty, was charged on Feb. 19 with a class B misdemeanor for agricultural inference under the Utah animal protection law adopted last year, but Draper Prosecutor Ben Rasmussen dropped all charges against the young woman Tuesday.
Rasmussen said he dropped the charges after reviewing new evidence that came forward during an April 18 hearing that included video footage showing Meyer was on public property at least part of the time. Other footage was too ambiguous to proceed with any charges against Meyer.
Rasmussen said the initial charge was based on the report of a police officer responding to the incident.
Meyer is a self-described animal welfare activist and vegan. The case would have been the first prosecuted under Utah’s one-year-old “ag-gag” law, and possibly the first prosecution under any of the six state “ag-gag” laws adopted since early 1990s.
Draper is a 30-square mile city of just over 42,000 people located about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatch Front.
Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing experienced E. coli O157:H7 contamination last August, prompting a recall of 38,200 pounds of various beef products including primal and sub-primal cut.
The Utah “ag-gag” law prohibits taking pictures or shooting video on private property without permission of the owner.© Food Safety News