RUTLAND >> A Vermont animal-owner is facing an involuntary manslaughter charge because his bull got loose, wandered onto a road and caused a fatal accident.
The defendant, Craig Mosher, was due in court in Rutland for a Monday hearing.
Some farmers fear his prosecution could set a precedent that stands to hurt the state's agriculture economy. They would like to see the charge, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, dropped.
"Animals don't get out that often. When they do, there could have been 100 different reasons why that animal got out," said Joseph Tisbert, an organic produce farmer from Cambridge, who is also the president of the Vermont Farm Bureau.
Mosher, who owns an excavation company, was indicted by a grand jury in April and has pleaded not guilty. His attorney has called the crash "a horrible accident."
According to court documents:
On July 31, 2015, a milk truck driver nearly hit the bull in Killington, recognized that the animal was Mosher's and went to Mosher's house to tell him about it.
The driver said he banged on Mosher's door and blew his truck's air horn to alert the defendant. The driver said Mosher did not respond, so he called state police.
Mosher later told the trooper he went to look for the bull on his property, but could not find it, went home and fell asleep.
The crash, which happened about 15 minutes after the milk truck driver called police, killed 62-year-old Jon Michael Bellis, of Woodbridge, Connecticut.
The indictment accuses Mosher of acting with criminal negligence after he learned the bull was loose and failed to contain it or warn others of the danger. Investigators said police have been called a half-dozen times about Mosher's animals being out of their pasture.
Tisbert says he and other farmers are worried landowners might be less willing to lease pastures.
"This could inadvertently affect the tourism industry of Vermont as farmers and landowners become more concerned about criminal and increased insurance liability," he said.