Friday, August 03, 2001

Hunting buddies face charges

Pair accused of using lights to kill, tampering with records

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A pair of hunting buddies are accused of being partners in wildlife crimes that include “jacklighting.”

        Garry Watts, 32, of Trenton, and James Allen Wilson, 54, of Franklin, have been indicted on charges that they violated state laws on hunting deer and wild animals. In a 14-count indictment released Wednesday, the men are accused of various offenses, including jacklighting, or shining lights at animals to stun them and leave them essentially sitting targets.

        Shooting deer at night, even without jacklighting, is illegal in Ohio, said Dick Scott, executive administrator of law enforcement for the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

        Last year, about 450,000 people were licensed to hunt in Ohio, and the division issued about 8,000 citations for wildlife-related offenses, Mr. Scott said. He said it's rare that investigations result in felony-level prosecutions such as those against Mr. Watts and Mr. Wilson.

        As of Thursday afternoon, the men had not been arrested, nor had they appeared in Butler County Common Pleas Court. Attempts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful.

        County Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Giuliano said the division began investigating Mr. Watts and Mr. Wilson about two years ago, and said they “hid evidence from investigators.”

        The most serious charges against Mr. Watts are tampering with evidence and tampering with records. Both are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison. Mr. Wilson also faces a count of tampering with records.

        The remaining charges are third-degree misdemeanors relating to poaching deer and/or other wildlife.

        The incidents occurred between September 1997 and February 2000, the indictment says.

        James R. Tunnell, investigator for the wildlife division's Xenia office, said the case against Mr. Watts and Mr. Wilson is “very involved,” and remains open, with authorities continuing to pursue other potential suspects.

        He said initial complaints about the Butler County men came on the department's Turn In a Poacher, or TIP, hot line, 1-800-762-2437.

        In Ohio, hunters are “essentially limited to harvesting one buck,” Mr. Tunnell said. “But it was double-digit numbers of deer that were taken by these individuals and others.”

        He said reasons for poaching — which may or may not apply to the Butler County case — include fulfilling one's own ego, competing with other hunters or for monetary gain.

        Deer antlers, he said, can go for thousands of dollars. “On the black market, there's an amazing amount of money to be had.”


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