Poachers Plead Guilty
By Rick Hiduk
A father and son from Turner, Maine, entered a guilty plea in multiple violations of Pennsylvania’s Game and Wildlife Code after the duo separately answered to charges that they killed scores of deer in Armenia Township and the surrounding area in late 2010. Everett Tyler Leonard, 31, and Lenny Leonard, 59, will be sentenced for their crimes on Thursday, Dec. 15.
According to a story published in the March 3 Rocket-Courier, the men were two of four adults and a 17-year-old juvenile who were accused of violating numerous Pennsylvania game laws during a three-month hunting spree, during which the group may have killed dozens of deer, including three “large-racked” bucks. Infractions cited at that time included killing deer at night with a light, killing deer in closed season, hunting from vehicles, keeping loaded firearms in vehicles, and exceeding bag limits on big game. The same men had been charged with numerous wildlife crimes in Maine.
It was the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Bureau that contacted the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) late last year to alert officials here of what has been termed one of the largest wildlife crime sprees in the commonwealth’s history. The Everetts were singled out by Maine’s Warden Service as the prime suspects in the case.
“The son did most of the killing,” Barrett disclosed after the verdicts were handed down on Oct. 5. “But they were both responsible for it.”
Five state game officials traveled to Maine in January to accompany Maine Warden Service representatives as they executed five search warrants that yielded hundreds of pounds of venison, guns, bows, and deer antlers. Additional items that were found and used to build the case against the men included a computer, documents, additional hunting-related equipment, and mounted hawks and owls. Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officers Vernon Perry, III and Thomas Grohol arrested the men for the offenses in February.
At the time, PCG executive director Carl G. Roe gave ample credit to the Maine Warden Service, noting that interstate crimes such as these can be difficult to process without the levels of cooperation that the two agencies exhibited.
Maine Warden Service Captain Dan Scott agreed. “It has been our experience that fish and wildlife violators know no jurisdiction boundaries, and this investigation proved that once again to be true,” he stated.
More importantly, Pennsylvania’s Act 54 of 2010, which was signed into law after a landslide vote in both legislative branches in July of that year, increased fines and sentences for precisely this sort of crime.
“This investigation is a prime example of why it was so important for the General Assembly to have enacted this legislation to increase the fines and penalties for chronic poachers,” Roe stated. “(The changes) addressed the exact type of violations allegedly committed by these individuals.”
“The changes in the game laws really did put some more teeth into this in terms of sentencing and fines,” Barrett concurred.
The district attorney noted that Everett Leonard admitted to 11 illegal kills, and Lenny pleaded guilty to five, qualifying both men for felony charges that can carry up to $100,000 in fines for Everett and $43,00 for Lenny. Additional misdemeanor charges, including hunting at night and from vehicles, could add to both the fines and the lengths of the sentences.
Barrett expressed satisfaction that the men had been brought to justice for their despicable actions. Lenny Leonard, who was initially reticent to cooperate, reportedly made some derogatory remarks aimed at Barrett as he left the courtroom.