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Nebraska poaching conviction leads to record fine

November 12, 2009 | 12:13 pm

Deer Three Nebraska men convicted of illegally killing deer have been ordered to pay fines and restitution in excess of $20,000, the largest penalty for such crimes in state history since electronic records began being kept in 1996.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reports that a Cherry County court judge assessed a combined $20,145 in fines, damages and court costs to Merriman, Neb. residents Nathan Chappell, Kip Castellaw and Ernie Bennett after each pleaded guilty to poaching five mule deer.

The men were originally charged with 30 counts each for game law violations, including hunting during a closed season, criminal trespass, hunting with artificial light and wanton waste, though five of the counts were dismissed in a plea agreement.

The poachers shot and killed five deer and left four of the dead animals in a field, taking the largest and displaying it on a flatbed trailer (what nincompoops, considering it was closed season). The buck's inside antler spread was 4-1/2 inches shy of the 24 inches that would have added a mandatory $5,000 fine for trophy penalty status.

"It is extremely gratifying when landowners, prosecutors and judges work together with law enforcement to bring poachers to justice," said NGPC conservation officer Heath Packett, who investigated the case.

All three men will also have their hunting and fishing privileges suspended for three years.

This callous waste of animals is an insult to legitimate hunters. Hopefully the hefty fine and three-year suspension for this reprehensible act will make these men think twice about doing something like this again.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Mule deer buck. Credit: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times