May 29, 2014

From Citizen-Times.com

ASHEVILLE – A judge ruled Thursday that it will be up to a jury to decide if undercover officers entrapped hunters charged with violating federal wildlife laws.

Judge Martin Reidinger rejected a defense motion to dismiss indictments against seven men charged in Operation Something Bruin, which targeted bear poaching and other wildlife violations in Western North Carolina and northern Georgia.

Seven defendants face trial for alleged violations of the federal Lacey Act, which makes it a crime to possess or transport wildlife taken in violation of hunting regulations. The judge set the trial for the Sept. 2 term. Many violations involved guides using baiting and other illegal means of helping clients find and kill bears.

Posing as hunters and using social media to make contacts, North Carolina and Georgia wildlife officers infiltrated groups suspected of poaching. But it was the undercover officers who actually shot and killed some of the illegally taken bears, Russell McLean, an attorney for some of the defendants, said in a motion to dismiss for entrapment.

The hunters shot bears out of season, transported the animals in their trucks and hunted at night, and searches of their residences turned up barrels of chocolate used as bait, prosecutors said.

The men facing trial in September are Jerry Parker, Brock Parker, Walter Stancil, Chad Crisp, David Crisp, Mitchell Jenkins and Robert Bumgarner.

Authorities said 81 people were arrested in connection with Operation Something Bruin in February 2013 and charged them with 980 violations. Some defendants pleaded guilty and others had their cases handled in state court.

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