A criminal complaint obtained Tuesday by the Idaho Statesman confirms that an Idaho teacher is accused of causing "needless suffering" to a live puppy by feeding it to a snapping turtle.
Preston Junior High science teacher Robert Crosland was charged Friday with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty in the March 7 incident, according to online court records. If convicted, he faces penalties of up to six months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
Crosland has been summoned to enter a plea at 9:45 a.m. on July 10 at the Franklin County Courthouse, 39 West Oneida St., in Preston, according to court documents.
The criminal complaint and summons were not available Friday, but the Statesman has since obtained copies of both. Find the full criminal complaint below:
Unconfirmed details about the incident spread rapidly while school and law enforcement officials in the southeast Idaho community declined to identify the teacher or discuss what occurred — other than to say it was “regrettable,” involved animal specimens and happened after school.
Marc Gee, superintendent for Preston schools, said Friday afternoon that he heard about the charge being filed but hadn't seen the details.
"Once we have seen the details, we will release a statement for the district," he said.
The state attorney general was asked to take over the case by Franklin County Prosecutor Vic Pearson, who cited conflict of interest.
People around the country were outraged when word spread that Crosland had fed a live puppy to a turtle in front of students. Several online petitions called for Crosland to be fired, and one now has more than 188,600 signatures.
Former students, community members and others have shown their support for Crosland in an online petition that has topped 3,700 signatures.
Preston School Board Chairwoman Joy Christensen told the Statesman in March that the board would not make any decisions about Crosland until after the criminal investigation had concluded.
About two weeks after the incident, state officials seized Crosland's snapping turtle — and euthanized it soon after.
Snapping turtles are considered an invasive species in Idaho, and a person who wants to keep one must obtain a permit. A person found to have one without a permit may be charged with a misdemeanor.
Preston, most famous for being the setting of the 2004 movie "Napoleon Dynamite," is about 300 miles east of Boise. There are 605 students in grades six to eight at Preston Junior High.