Maine Animal Welfare Agents removed three pig carcasses from Ireland Hill Farms in Swanville as they executed a search warrant at the farm in March 2018. Credit: Gabor Degre

A Swanville farmer’s animal cruelty case will move forward after a judge last week denied the farmer’s request to suppress the search warrant that led to finding the corpses of about a dozen heritage pigs on his farm.

Jerry Ireland was charged with 13 counts of cruelty toward animals after the March 2018 raid by Maine Animal Welfare Program agents at Ireland Hill Farms in Swanville allegedly turned up the dead Mangalitsa pigs and one live, emaciated one, according to court documents.

At the time, the farmer also was the head of the United Farmer Veterans of Maine, a nonprofit group that supports veterans who want to farm. But two months after the animal cruelty charges were filed against him, the embattled Ireland resigned as president of that group.

Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras argued last fall at Waldo County Superior Court that the search warrant was defective and that the evidence turned up after it was executed should be suppressed. Efforts to speak to Tzovarras on Monday were not immediately successful.

Last October, he said at the motion to suppress hearing that he had found several problems with the search warrant, including that it gave limited information about exactly where to search and what to search for.

“Warrants have to be specific,” he said at that time. “A hunch, or a feeling, by an animal welfare agent is not probable cause. There’s simply no evidence to suggest there’s probable cause of a crime.”

At that hearing, prosecutors said that animal welfare agents had been probable cause of criminality before they obtained the search warrant.

Justice Robert Murray’s decision to deny Ireland’s and Tzovarras’ request to throw out the evidence obtained through the search warrant was good news for Waldo County Assistant District Attorney Bill Entwisle.

“Obviously, we’re happy about it,” he said. “These are serious allegations, and it gives us the opportunity to go forward and try to come up with a just result.”

Ireland is scheduled to have a dispositional conference on Tuesday, May 14. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement at that time, the case could go to trial as soon as June, the prosecutor said.

Related: Jerry Ireland talks about his Mangalitsa pigs in a 2016 video

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