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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

Friday, October 17, 2014

Graham Co. Man Pleads Guilty To Lacey Act Violation And Is Sentenced To 20 Months In Prison For Petty Offenses Involving Illegal Hunting Activities

United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins Western District Of North Carolina

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – David Chadwick Crisp, 35, of Graham Co., appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell and pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor Lacey Act violation, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. He will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Martin K. Reidinger on that offense at a later date.

Today, Crisp also pleaded guilty to four offenses involving illegal hunting activities within the Nantahala National Forest, one illegal hunting activity on Fontana Lake, and one boating violation on Fontana Lake. For those six offenses, he was sentenced to serve a total of 20 months in prison. In addition to the prison term, Judge Howell ordered Crisp to serve one year of probation upon his release from prison, and ordered him to pay $3,000 in fines, and to surrender his North Carolina hunting and fishing licenses for a period of one year. Crisp also agreed that when he is later sentenced by Judge Reidinger he will pay $2,232 to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission as restitution for one of the black bears he killed.

According to court documents and court records, the misdemeanor Lacey Act violation Crisp pleaded guilty to earlier in the day involved the illegal transportation of an American black bear the defendant knew had been killed in the Nantahala National Forest in violation of state and federal laws.

The six offenses to which Crisp pleaded guilty and for which he was sentenced today were:

• Knowingly operating a vessel on the waters of the State of North Carolina between sunset and sunrise without the use of navigational lights.
• Knowingly and intentionally hunting bear at night and during closed season.
• Knowingly and intentionally hunting dear at night.
• Knowingly and intentionally hunting deer with the use and aid of artificial light.
• Knowingly and intentionally hunting without a license.
• Knowingly and intentionally hunting deer with a firearm during closed season.

According to court records, Crisp’s illegal activities took place in the Nantahala National Forest and elsewhere in Graham Co., between November 2010 and October 2012. According to the filed factual basis presented in open court today, which Crisp agreed under oath was accurate, Crisp and his conspirators used illegal hunting techniques on a number of occasions to illegally hunt for bears, hogs, deer and other wildlife in the National Forest and within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Court records indicate that among the illegal techniques used were spotlights, bear baiting using chocolate, and equipping a bait barrel with a dog collar that could then be used to track the bear, as well as hunting at night and out of season.

According to court records, to conceal his illegal hunting activities from law enforcement, Crisp took further measures, for example, keeping a “throw away” rifle hidden in a hollow tree, to avoid detection going in an out the national park with a gun. Court records also indicate that when an undercover agent said to Crisp that there would probably be a lot of bears in the national park, but that bear hunting there is illegal, Crisp responded, “You can if you don’t get caught.” On another occasion, court records show, Crisp told an undercover agent that he had not tagged a bear yet, even though he had helped kill four bears and had killed one himself.

Following Crisp’s guilty plea and in announcing Crisp’s sentence, Judge Howell said that he had never seen this quantity or level of wildlife violations.

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The following defendants have also been prosecuted for illegal hunting activities and related violations:

On September 5, 2014, Walter Stancil and Jerry Parker were convicted of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and are awaiting sentencing.

On October 2, 2014, Walter Stancil was convicted of removing Forest Service property, a game camera that was set up on one of his bear bait sites. He received a sentence of 15 days in jail.

On October 9, 2014, David Crisp was convicted at trial of aiding and abetting the illegal placement of chocolate, for bear bait, in the Nantahala National Forest. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Jerry Parker pled guilty yesterday to illegally conducting a commercial enterprise, that is, a bear hunting guide service, in the Nantahala National Forest without a commercial special use permit. He was sentenced to a fine of $1,500 and was ordered to forfeit his North Carolina hunting and fishing license for two years and was ordered not to hunt or fish in North Carolina for two years.

The investigations were conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The prosecutions are being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.

Updated March 19, 2015