Roddy Dean Pippin, the diabetic cowboy who has been serving time for cattle rustling since 2004, will get to ride out of the big house next month after the state's highest criminal court ruled today that he has done his time.
"There was like no words; I just cried," said a tearful Jacie Pippin, Roddy Pippin's wife. "The relief is so incredible I just can't explain it."
Pippin has been beseeching the court to re-examine the amount of time that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice planned to keep him behind bars, arguing that prison officials' calculations kept him in too long. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, and in a ruling today ordered the TDCJ to release Pippin on Oct. 22.
In 2004, Pippin pleaded guilty to stealing cattle from a handful of ranches in North Texas, not far from where he grew up. The 20-year-old was a roughneck by day, and at night he and a group of friends absconded with truckloads of cattle. Pippin’s crimes were akin to treason in cattle country, and the judge assigned him the maximum sentence on four counts of theft of livestock: two years on each state jail felony, to be served consecutively.
Pippin's case, though, was complicated by his unusual health condition: "Brittle diabetes" causes blood sugar levels to swing severely, and seemingly without reason. Pippin began having health problems soon after he was sentenced. A judge granted him medical leave in the form of “shock” probation, essentially house arrest, for two years.
The young cowboy gained notoriety when his two-year probation term ended and he rode his horse into the county square in Quanah to turn himself into authorities so he could return to prison.
That two-year probation term improved Pippin's health, but it was also the source of confusion over how much time he ought to serve. Pippin contended that his sentence ought to have ended earlier this year, but the TDCJ said his term would not end until Jan. 20, 2013.
Pippin made headlines again earlier this year when, out of frustration, he asked a Texas court to string him up in the Hardeman County square and let him hang for his crimes instead of continuing to keep him locked up in prison. In theatrically detailed language, Pippin's motion described how and why he wanted to be executed: "This tremendous gross miscarriage of perverted justice being so boldly practiced ... in my case makes as much sense as an acorn in a woman's corset!"
Hardeman County District Attorney Staley Heatly, the prosecutor who originally dealt with Pippin's case, said at the time that TDCJ had correctly counted the sentence, and he dismissed the execution request as a frivolous motion. Heatly said today that he was disappointed with the high court's decision but that he was satisfied that Pippin had served his time.
"It was just really difficult and unusual circumstances, and I understand the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision," Heatly said.
Editor's note: This story was corrected to more accurately reflect the amount of time Pippin was incarcerated. The original story reported he was in prison for more than eight years. Pippin spent some of his sentence outside of prison, on shock probation, and he was awarded time credit that resulted in him spending less than eight years in prison.