Poachers from Maine Jailed
By Rick Hiduk
Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett announced lighter-than-expected sentences for two deer poachers from Maine, who admitted in October to killing scores of deer in Armenia Township and the surrounding area in late 2010. Everett Tyler Leonard, 32, and Everett “Lenny” Leonard, 60, separately entered guilty pleas to multiple violations of Pennsylvania’s Game and Wildlife Code. At the time, it was thought that upgrades earlier this year in state poaching laws would lead to both heavy jail sentences and fines on the two men, who entered their pleas to Barrett on Wednesday.
Lenny Leonard was sentenced to the Bradford County Correctional Facility for 15 days to two months, followed by 18 months of probation, and assessed $2,300. While on probation, his actions will be supervised and monitored by the probation department.
Everett Tyler Leonard was sentenced to three-and-a-half to 14 months in prison, followed by 18 months probation, and was fined $3,550.
In October, Barrett related that Everett Leonard admitted to 11 illegal kills, and Lenny pleaded guilty to five, qualifying both men for felony charges that could have resulted in up to $100,000 in fines for Everett and $43,000 for Lenny. Additional misdemeanor charges, including hunting at night and from vehicles, were factored into both the fines and the prescribed jail time.
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 they 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.
In fact, it was the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Bureau that contacted the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) in December 2010 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 noted after the two pleaded guilty on Oct. 5. “But they were both responsible for it.”
Five Pennsylvania 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 the guilty pleas were entered in October, prosecutors expressed confidence that Pennsylvania’s Act 54, which became law in 2010, was designed to ensure higher fines and sentences for precisely this sort of crime.
“The changes in the game laws really did put some more teeth into this in terms of sentencing and fines,” Barrett stated in October. In a phone interview with Barrett yesterday, he stood by Judge Jeffrey Smith’s decision, noting, “We put the case before the judge without any restrictions on the imposition of sentencing. There were enough convictions that he had latitude to impose almost any sentence that might reasonably be applied.”
Some of the factors that came into play, Barrett related, were limited prior records of both defendants, an ongoing struggle with drug addiction by the younger Leonard, and testimony by the younger Leonard that the situation that he had gotten himself into was going to place a heavy burden on his young family. He is the father of two young children and has been participating in drug rehabilitation programs.
The penalties against the two rogue hunters do not end with this sentencing either, Barrett added. The duo still faces charges in their home state of Maine, and their licensing status in both states will be determined by the Pennsylvania Game Commission in separate hearings likely to be held in the next few months.
Nonetheless, Barrett remains appalled by the greed of the men and a pattern of what might be termed “reverse mentoring,” in that the Leonards involved two teenage hunters on their “program of illegal hunting.” Almost everything about their hunting trip to Pennsylvania was illegal, Barrett noted, in reference to night hunting and multiple kills. One irony he noted is that most of the charges levied against the men in Maine are for “attempted kills.” Apparently the deer population is Maine pales in comparison to that of Pennsylvania, which is what drew the men here.
“This was pretty selfish behavior. It was planned, it wasn’t spontaneous,” said Barrett. “The investigation showed a complete pattern of lawlessness. The things that they were doing—night hunting and road hunting—were simply dangerous. Their activities were an insult to the people of Pennsylvania.” He added that both Leonards remained indignant to the end. They displayed no remorse and essentially do not consider what they did to be wrong.
Everett Tyler Leonard (left) and Everett “Lenny” Leonard.