Man heads to trial for alleged animal cruelty

GAVELThe man at the center of this fall’s wolf hunt controversy is headed for a jury trial.

John Koski, 68, pled not guilty Thursday to one count of abandoning cruelty to two or three animals in Ontonagon County District Court.

Koski is accused of neglecting two donkeys that were provided by the state to prevent wolves from attacking his cattle.

Koski’s farm accounted for almost as many killed or injured cattle than all other farms combined since 1996.

If convicted, he will face up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, up to 300 hours of community service, or a combination of all three.

Judge Anders B. Kingstad, Jr. initially arraigned Koski, but disqualified himself after Koski applied for a court-appointed attorney, who happened to be his son.

“I believe, based on objective and reasonable perception, my continued assignment would create an appearance of impropriety,” Kingstad, Jr. said.  “I have personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceedings.”

The state court administrative office has since selected District Court Judge Mark Wisti, who will preside over Koski’s two-day jury trial in April.