Skip to comments.Attention: Sportsmen in WNC and North Georgia ("Poaching" Entrapment by Wildlife LEO?)
Posted on 01/21/2014 6:03:11 AM PST by Rebelbase
By Linda Crisp-In recent news, it has been reported that six U.S. Forest Service (USFS) employees from Western North Carolina were awarded Law Enforcement and Investigations Awards by the USFS for their roles in Operation Something Bruin, a four-year, multi-agency investigation targeting bear poachers in WNC and surrounding states, resulting in arrests in February 2013.
Also, in October, the National Wildlife Federation bestowed prestigious conservation honors on Sgt. Chad Arnold, an officer from Charlotte with the Special Investigations Unit of the N.C. Wildlife Commission. Arnold was named Wildlife Enforcement Officer of the Year, and the Commission was named the Natural Resources Agency of the Year, according to a press release from the N.C. Wildlife Commission.
After state and federal wildlife officials arrested these so-called poachers in February, 2013, the state dismissed all charges on some of them in April, 2013. Some hunters were arrested again in June, 2013 by United States Forest Service officials.
The Wildlife Federation, United States Forest Service, state and federal officials have been too hasty in handing out awards and congratulating themselves.
In 2009, Arnold (undercover alias Chad Ryan), and Davey Webb (alias Davey Williams), a wildlife agent from Georgia, visited a gun shop in Bryson City, N.C. According to the shop owner, they stated that they wanted to get involved in bear hunting and asked for recommendations of hunting guides in the area. However, according to subsequent reports, they were supposed to be infiltrating known poaching circles. The gun shop owner told them about some hunters he knew in Graham County, N.C. These agents hunted with men in Graham, Swain, Jackson, and Haywood from 2009-2012.
In late 2010 through 2011, under time constraints, and possibly due to not finding any illegal activity, Arnold and Webb resorted to various schemes to try to entice the hunters to break laws.
During one hunters trial in Haywood County, agents admitted to buying illegal bait for bears in Tennessee, and placing it in a hunters yard in Graham County. Hunters witnessed the officers killing at least four of the ten bears that were taken. These agents, against the advice of hunters, removed the bears gallbladders and called hunters from surrounding counties to try to get them to participate in the illegal selling of bear parts. The hunters refused to take part in this illegal activity. These are only two of the many tactics used in attempts to entrap hunters of Western North Carolina.
According to one attorney, Arnold admitted in court to violating 39 wildlife laws.
Additionally, state and federal agents employed Gestapo-like techniques in search and seizure of so-called evidence, including improper service of search-warrants.
Men in bullet-proof vests, with M-16 rifles came into homes where women were alone.
In one house, more than 20 agents with guns drawn, terrorized screaming toddlers and left them unsupervised while the parents were roughed up, searched, handcuffed, and taken outside the home. To this day, these children display post-traumatic stress symptoms.
They left homes in disarray and removed items unrelated to bear hunting: a laptop computer, hunting picture of deceased family member, legally killed mounted deer and boar heads, duck and turkey calls belonging to a four-year-old boy, a boat and boat titles, a front-end loader, personal vehicles, and many other items, which have not been returned.
To date, hunters who have had jury trials have not been convicted. In one case in Graham County, agents could not produce video evidence. Enticements were made by prosecutors including an offer to drop some charges if the hunter involved would plead guilty. The hunter refused and requested a jury trial. In this case, all charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.
Various new releases by state and federal agencies, as well as the media, have already labeled all the hunters as poachers; however, most of these men have not had their day in court. Whatever happened to due process of law and innocent until proven guilty?
To add insult to injury, some hunters who have not been convicted of anything have been assigned federal probation officers who visit monthly.
Something IS Brewing in WNC; that SOMETHING would be tempers. The hunters involved are tired of being falsely accused, their rights ignored, and their reputations ruined.
The citizens of WNC and Northern Georgia are now organizing to get some answers from these agencies on why their constitutional rights have been ignored and proper due process of law not given.
A public hearing is currently being planned for mid-January 2014. Organizers are asking for Governor Pat McCrory, Congressman Mark Meadows and all elected officials to initiate investigations of all officers and agencies involved in Operation Something Bruin. If you have information to share, or would like to participate, please send an e-mail to SomethingBrewing2013@yahoo.com , or letter to P.O. Box 948, Bryson City, N.C., 28713.
Graham County, NC
The allegations raised in the article are typical of what has become typical LEO procedure.
Sounds like a bunch of Barney Fife wannabes went wild and unsupervised for a long time..........................
Entrapment is not a lawful police activity, so the officer who violated 39 laws can’t claim immunity. He should be facing at least 39 criminal charges for those violations, plus various other charges such as conspiracy (with the other undercover agents) and, perhaps possession of a gun while committed crimes if that ever happened, and perhaps many others.
“During one hunters trial in Haywood County, agents admitted to buying illegal bait for bears in Tennessee, and placing it in a hunters yard in Graham County. Hunters witnessed the officers killing at least four of the ten bears that were taken.”
The bear killing by LEO should be prosecuted as there are witnesses.
But the wildlife agency has absolved themselves of any wrongdoing.
But the wildlife agency has absolved themselves of any wrongdoing.
What is the purpose? To make people fear getting their hunting licenses and hunting?
Madness. How long until people just start shooting game wardens on sight?
LEO shot 4 bears to entice others to shoot six more in hopes of enticing them into an offense. Nuts!
“They left homes in disarray and removed items unrelated to bear hunting: a laptop computer, hunting picture of deceased family member, legally killed mounted deer and boar heads, duck and turkey calls belonging to a four-year-old boy, a boat and boat titles, a front-end loader, personal vehicles, and many other items, which have not been returned.”
Seizing assets to pay for an operation must be a requirement. Looks like they came up short on this one.
More from local news source:
Hunters from all over the mountains came together last weekend to speak out against the tactics used by undercover wildlife officers in a multi-year investigation one that presumably targeted bear poachers.
But in reality, wildlife agents went on a fishing expedition, using entrapment and other underhanded tactics to trick hunters into violating wildlife rules, according to dozens of hunters who have come forward to protest the undercover operation.
Known as Operation Something Bruin, the undercover operation netted a several hundred charges against more than 80 hunters. A large number have since had their cases dismissed in court, however, due to lack of evidence.
A public forum was staged at Swain County High School on Saturday, Jan. 18, and was billed as a chance for hunters and their families to talk about their experience as a target in Operation Something Bruin.
Hunters spanning a 15-county area of WNC and North Georgia shared similar stories of trumped up charges and even outright lies from the agents.
The biggest complaint was that the agents set up the hunters and used deceitful methods to trick them into breaking the law.
Kenneth Adams said an undercover agent called him over and over, asking to go on a guided hunting trip outside of hunting season.
I kept telling him there wasnt nothing to hunt that time of year, said Adams, a hunting guide in Graham County.
It seemed the undercover agent had no reasonable suspicion against Adams, but had simply picked his name up as a hunting guide and then tried to drum something up against him.
When hunting season finally opened, Adams took the undercover agent on a hunting trip. But the agent ultimately turned up empty-handed. The only charge Adams got was acting as a guide on forest service land without the right kind of commercial permit.
Brent Thomas, a hunter from Northern Georgia, said he was goaded into trying to sell the gall bladder of a bear on the black market, which is illegal.
I said, Dude I dont know what a bear gall bladder is, Thomas recalled. They kept on and they kept on. They said We know somewhere in Atlanta you can get $5,000 or $10,000 for a bear gall bladder. I said, I aint going to mess with no gall bladders. Thats a felony.
Undercover agents would buy bear bait and spotlights, and then try to get other hunters to go along with illegal hunting techniques, according to the hunters and court evidence.
Ironically, the undercover agents shot more wildlife illegally than the people they were investigating. Undercover officers pulled the trigger in the majority of cases involving bears and deer being shot, and then charged the other hunters who were along with them, including bystanders who didnt have a direct role, according to the evidence in the cases.
If any of these men wanted to be poachers and I say wanted to be they would have had slim chance around the undercover agents because they killed all the bears, said Linda Crisp, who had family members charged in the operation.
In one case, they charged a woman with hunting violations who was along for the ride in the back seat of the truck, according to her claims at the forum. In some cases, undercover officers shot wildlife illegally, put the dead animal in the truck driven by another hunter, and proceeded to charge that hunter with possession of illegally taken wildlife.
While there was indeed some wrongdoing by some hunters, there was very little actual poaching exposed, say the hunters. In most cases, the hunters were hunting properly, in season, with permits, on legal game lands, and using proper techniques.
Many of the charges the officers came up with were technicalities, like registering a bear tag improperly although some would argue these various hunting regulations are in place for a reason, namely to ensure game isnt overhunted and hunting is done in a sustainable way to protect wildlife for future generations.
Walter Hooper, a hunter from Murphy, said the undercover agents must have gotten desperate when they couldnt find evidence of a bear-poaching ring in the mountains after all.
If I was given $2 million and four years, I could come up with more than 10 bear charges that I didnt have to go out and shoot myself to get the charges, Murphy said. That is piss poor investigation or there is not much of a poaching ring out here to start with.
Speaker after speaker at the three-hour forum last Saturday called on the state to hold an inquiry into the undercover officers behavior.
N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, and N.C. Rep Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, came to the forum. Both pledged to look into the concerns and complaints that they had heard from people.
Cherokee Chief Michell Hicks attended the forum as well and said he would take the concerns to the board of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which he serves on.
There are some serious issues, Hicks said. The processes that were utilized should have been more thought through.