Thursday, January 04, 2001

Bigwigs named in case of dead ducks

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — Federal prosecutors have released the names of former state Sen. Michael Moloney's hunting companions who were accused of killing ducks over a pond baited with shelled corn.

        The list includes a Keeneland trustee, a top county prosecutor and a banker.

        They are accused of killing 20 migratory ducks in what hunters consider unsportsmanlike behavior and the federal government considers a crime. Some of those charged said they were unaware the pond was baited.

        Last week, Mr. Moloney pleaded guilty to spreading 500 pounds of corn around a pond at a farm on Jacks Creek Pike. His companions were cited for the lesser misdemeanor of hunting what were, in effect, sitting ducks.

        They are:

        • Louis Lee Haggin III, 65, a Keeneland trustee.

        • Paul Richwalsky Jr., 51, chief assistant Fayette County attorney and former assistant attorney general for the state in charge of special prosecutions.

        • George E. Wallace, 37, senior loan officer with the Vine Street Trust.

        • John E. Johnson, 29, who is in the flower business in Lexington.

        • Michael Whit Moloney, 22, the son of the former senator.

        One other person, a juvenile, was not identified.

        County attorney Margaret Kannensohn said Tuesday that she had not spoken with federal prosecutors about her chief assistant.

        “If a member of my staff might be charged with a crime, I've got a pretty rigid course of action,” she said, declining to discuss the matter in detail until she has the facts.

        Mr. Richwalsky said that he had not yet received a citation for the alleged hunting violation. “I was there hunting,” he said. “But I didn't know anything about” the baiting.

        Mr. Wallace echoed that. “I had no prior knowledge,” he said. “I was an innocent bystander.”

        Mr. Haggin has not returned calls for two weeks, and the others could not be reached.

        Mr. Moloney, the head of the Senate appropriations and revenue committee until 1996, struck a plea bargain last week with prosecutors by agreeing to pay a $1,000 fine and to be barred from hunting migratory ducks, geese and doves for the next two seasons. He had faced a maximum of a $100,000 fine and a year in jail for the violation under a federal law enacted in 1998 that treats the actual baiter of birds with stiff penalties.

        Baiting is considered unsportsmanlike and endangers birds because huge flocks congregate in one spot, a situation that not only leaves them easy pickings but hastens the spread of disease.

        Dave Hall, a retired agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, described the effect of baiting in an article in Field & Stream: “They become like drug addicts. They can't keep away, even in the face of death.”

        The six Fayette County hunters besides Mr. Moloney face fines of up to $15,000, but the U.S. attorney's office said that the typical fine levied in Kentucky is $250.

        Such fines are in line with the norm, but some hunters have fared less well. Last week in Pennsylvania, for instance, some hunters were fined $10,000 for illegally hunting wild turkeys. In Arkansas, another $10,000 fine from the federal government was issued to duck hunters.


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