Defendant in Sonoma County chicken theft case reaches plea deal, others await ruling

Defendants are members of a Berkeley-based animal rights organization. A preliminary hearing continued this month after being delayed since the end of 2021.|

An animal welfare activist accused of taking chickens from Sonoma County poultry farms has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors, while three other defendants may learn Feb. 6 if they’ll stand trial

Almira Tanner pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of trespassing during her Jan. 19 preliminary hearing with co-defendants, Wayne Hsiung, Cassandra King and Priya Sawhney.

According to Sonoma County Superior Court records, Tanner’s plea deal requires her to do 100 hours of community service, pay $12,719 in restitution and stay 100 yards from Sunrise Farms, which was the site of one of the demonstrations.

If Tanner meets the conditions, her charge will be reduced to an infraction.

“The offer is irresistible,” said Tanner’s attorney, Omar Figueroa. “It’s a very good offer. If she complies with the terms, and she will, it’s looking like (the infraction’s) going to be dismissed.“

Tanner is from Vancouver, British Columbia and she entered the plea deal “to avoid draconian immigration consequences,” he added.

The case stems from activity during demonstrations at Petaluma-area farms in 2018 and 2019. Each defendant was charged with multiple counts of second-degree burglary, conspiracy, theft, trespassing and unlawful assembly.

Prosecutors said protesters forced their way into the poultry facilities and stole chickens under the guise of liberating them from allegedly harmful conditions. In 2019, they say, ducks were stolen and protesters chained themselves to the property.

Defense attorneys filed motions this month to reduce felonies to misdemeanors and the matter is expected to be addressed Feb. 6, when the remaining defendants may learn if they’ll stand trial.

Defendants are members of Direct Action Everywhere, a Berkeley-based animal welfare group focused on bringing attention to the suffering of commercially raised animals and providing them with relief.

In 2018 and 2019, they were among hundreds of demonstrators outside two poultry farms and a duck farm.

The first demonstration took place May 29, 2018, at Sunrise Farms, northwest of Petaluma on Liberty Road. About 500 people participated and members removed dozens of chickens.

A second demonstration took place Sept. 29, 2018, at McCoy’s Poultry Services on Jewett Road and about 15 chickens were taken from the farm. About 67 people were arrested, including the four defendants.

A third protest, which happened at Reichardt Duck Farm, west of Petaluma, took place on June 3, 2019, and had 300 demonstrators. Nearly 100 of them were arrested, mostly on suspicion of trespassing and conspiracy, officials said.

A preliminary hearing for the four defendants began in November 2021 but was continued on several occasions before resuming Jan. 19.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at On Twitter @colin_atagi

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