MIKE BRAUN Violator gets his due
For some people, running afoul of the law once is enough to set them on a straight and narrow path.
Others, however, just don't seem to learn.
Dave Brown, the Ohio Division of Wildlife's wildlife officer for Mahoning County, has had an experience with one such scofflaw over the past several years.
Recently, the offender in question had yet another run-in with the law, his eighth wildlife law violation since 1998, Brown said.
Scott Wagner, 31, of Canfield, was fined and sentenced Wednesday for an offense dating to Dec. 20, 2001.
Brown described the following situation:
At 11:20 p.m., Wagner called the Canfield Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol and reported he had hit a deer on the state Route 446 bypass. Brown said Wagner had called for a trooper requesting a tag to remove the deer.
In the course of investigating the accident that night, the trooper involved, Eric Brown (no relation to the game warden), had activated his patrol car's emergency lights and dashboard video camera. Brown said Wagner told Trooper Brown that he had sped up and downshifted his vehicle when he saw the deer so he could hit one of them. Wagner explained to the officer that he had lost his hunting license in an earlier infraction handled by the local game officer.
"Dave Brown told me that the only way I'd get a deer is if I hit one on the road," Wagner told the trooper on the video, the warden said. When the officer asked Wagner if he deliberately hit the deer, the Canfield man, still on camera, said yes, Brown added.
After discussing the accident and Wagner's admission with a supervisor, OSP Sgt. Rick Brown (wildlife officer Brown's brother), officials determined that the admission of deliberately striking the deer made Wagner ineligible to take the deer. The video was turned over to state wildlife officials for further action.
Moved from area
However, Brown said, Wagner then went out of state for a period of time and generally made himself unavailable until recently.
"Scott was out of town and moved to Florida for a time," Brown said. "I finally got in touch with him this year."
Wagner had his day in Mahoning County Court on Wednesday.
"We worked out a deal with Mahoning County Prospector Ed Sturgeon and Judge Scott Hunter," Brown said. "Wagner pled no contest to the charges, and he won't be able to hunt until 2006."
For deliberately running down the deer, Judge Hunter fined Wagner $1,000, ordered him to pay $400 in restitution to the state for the deer, ordered mandatory hunter education classes, suspended Wagner's hunting privileges for three years and sentenced him to 180 days in jail, with 150 suspended.
Brown said that because of layoffs at the county jail, Wagner will wear an electronic monitoring device, essentially placing him under house arrest for the 30 days.
Wagner's other violations since 1998, Brown said, included two charges in April of that year for hunting from a motor vehicle and attempting to take deer in a closed season ($400 fine, $70 court costs, forfeited a .22 Marlin Magnum rifle); a December 2000 incident with four charges including hunting without permission at Camp Stambaugh, hunting deer with an illegal weapon (shotgun in muzzleloading season), deterring a wildlife officer (fleeing from officer Brown and pointing a weapon at him) and no hunter orange clothing ($700 fine, $110 court costs, 30 day jail sentence suspended, one year probation, forfeited a Remington 870 Express Magnum shotgun).
He was most recently cited by Pennsylvania Game Commission officers, in November 2002, for illegal possession of deer parts.
Brown cited the cooperation of Trooper Brown, Sgt. Brown, Sturgeon and Judge Hunter for bringing Wagner to justice. Brown was also generous toward the repeat offender. "He's not a bad kid, but he got what he deserved," Brown said.
I'm inclined to not be as forgiving as Dave Brown.
The general public will often look at a violator like Wagner and make guilt-by-association assumptions about other hunters. That's unfortunate.
Dave Brown is to be commended for his dedication in giving Wagner his due.
For the sake of Ohio's legal and responsible hunters, we can only hope Wagner learns a valuable lesson.