The former Billings attorney who was disbarred amid allegations that he embezzled thousands of dollars from his client’s estate was charged Thursday with felony animal abuse.
Randy Laedeke was set to appear in Yellowstone County Justice Court on Thursday for two counts of cruelty to animals.
The investigation into the care of Laedeke’s horses began in 2015 when an animal control officer received a report of two loose horses in the area.
The officer found two horses that appeared extremely thin and rated them the lowest possible score of 1 on the Henneke Body Scoring System, which is used to rate the condition of horse health.
The officer determined that the horses belonged to Laedeke, who at first would not confirm he owned the horses.
At Laedeke’s property, investigators found about 25 other horses in varying conditions.
The officer observed poor living conditions, body conditions and little to no food or water for the horses.
The horses were ranked using the same health scoring system and most rated very low.
When questioned about the condition of the horses, Laedeke acknowledged that the horses were a little thin but denied that they were in poor shape.
According to court documents, a pony was found on the property with untrimmed hooves that made it difficult and painful for the animal to walk.
Laedeke made various excuses, according to the report, as to why the horses weren't cared for.
One of the stud horses was found with a serious infection that led him to waste away.
At least three horse skeletons were found on Laedeke’s property, according to court documents.
Investigators did not observe any feed or grass for the animals to eat.
Laedeke told the officers that he would get the pony’s hooves trimmed and make sure the other horses were tended to, but nothing had changed two months later.
Officers responded to Laedeke’s property as recently as March of this year for a complaint of a sick horse on his property.
The horse’s ribs, hips and other bones were showing through, according to court documents.
During the same period the animal cruelty investigation took place, Laedeke was the subject of a federal investigation into his alleged embezzlement of $65,500 from a client’s estate.
Laedeke was accused of depositing $65,000 of the client’s settlement into his own account for “personal expenses.”
Laedeke, who formerly represented personal injury and civil cases through Laedeke Law Office, was disbarred by the Montana Supreme Court in 2015.
The federal case was dismissed in September of 2016.
Laedeke asked the judge to dismiss the case on grounds that the proof of criminality derived from emails was “too tenuous to establish federal jurisdiction in the matter.”
He also argued that prosecutors did not prove he established a fraud scheme and that “because the emails were not an integral part of the scheme, no wire fraud exists.”
It’s unclear if the charges were ever refilled in state court.
Laedeke is not in police custody.