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Charges dropped in Wright County hog operation break in

CLARION — Charges are dismissed against a man who was accused of breaking into a Wright County hog operation in 2020, placing hidden cameras and stealing a live piglet.

Thirty-five-year-old Matthew A. Johnson of Berkley, California was to have had his trial starting today in Wright County District Court in Clarion on the charges of third-degree burglary, electronic or mechanical eavesdropping and agricultural production facility trespass.

On Tuesday, Wright County assistant attorney Joseph Corrow filed a motion to dismiss the charges. According to criminal complaints and court documents, Johnson and an accomplice entered the Iowa Select hog site in rural Dows in May of 2020 without permission. Johnson and his accomplice, Linda L. Cridge of Fishers, Indiana placed two live video streaming cameras and an audio recording device in the facility.

Johnson was being prosecuted under a new section of the Iowa Code known as the Iowa Ag Gag law put into law prior to the break-in at the Iowa Select farm facility. Meanwhile, Johnson’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that the ag-gag law is unconstitutional under the first amendment was denied.

Wright County district court judge Derek Johnson dismissed the charges with prejudice, meaning the defendant cannot be charged with these crimes for the offense again.

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