A rural Blue Hill man was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation for stealing cattle in Clay and Webster counties.

Austin A. Petr, 28, was sentenced in Adams County District Court by Judge Stephen Illingworth. He ordered that the probation sentence in each case be served concurrently.

Petr pleaded no contest March 20 to amended charges from Clay and Webster counties.

In the Clay County case, Petr pleaded no contest to two counts of theft by receiving stolen property, each a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped seven charges of prohibited sale of livestock.

In the Webster County case, he pleaded no contest to one count of attempted theft by unlawful taking, a Class 3A felony punishable by up to three years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors reduced the charge to an attempt.

As part of the plea agreement, Petr agreed that the sale proceeds plus interest from the cattle sold by previous court order be paid to the alleged victim in the case, Alan Johnson. Petr also agreed he has no claim to any remaining cattle in Johnson’s possession that had not been sold pursuant to the order.

George Horton, chief investigator for the Nebraska Brand Commission, testified in a Feb. 28, 2018, hearing that he was called by the Webster County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 13, 2017, about a report of cattle being stolen. He later received a call indicating the cattle had been possibly located at the Sutton Livestock auction barn.

Horton testified he went to the barn and found 30 unbranded calves mingled with 40 head of branded cattle owned by Petr, which had been consigned to be sold by Sutton Livestock.

Of the 30 unbranded cattle, 27 are believed to belong to Alan Johnson of Blue Hill. Johnson reported earlier in the day that the cattle went missing between 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 12 and 7:30 a.m. the following day.

Johnson was also at the sale barn and told Horton that he could identify the unbranded calves. DNA testing was done on the 30 head of unbranded cattle. The samples were compared to Johnson’s herd and 27 of the cattle matched.

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