Tag Archives: guilty

Bogus guide, client from Wisconsin guilty of poaching in Canada

Two Wisconsin men were found guilty of illegal guiding and poaching across the border in Canada and it’s partly because of their own Facebook posts that they were caught.

U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced the two Milwaukee-area men pleaded guilty in federal court for violating the Lacey Act and lying about it to a federal officer. The violations are related to the unlawful importation of wildlife into the United States that had been killed in Ontario, Canada, in violation of Canadian law.

In late 2013, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry conservation officers looked into complaints relating to the illegal hunting activities of Reid Viertel, of West Allis,  and various associates, including Terry Schmit, of Franklin. The complaints partly were based on public Facebook posts by Viertel and Schmit in which they bragged about their successful hunting trips in Canada.

As a part of their investigation, Canadian officials reached out to a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to interview the men. Together, with assistance from wardens with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Law Enforcement, the agent learned this was much more than a hunting trip.

At the time of the interviews, Viertel was suspected of operating an illegal guiding service in Ontario to hunt for wolves, bear and white-tailed deer and was also suspected of poaching on those trips.

Viertel, a medically-retired firefighter, was doing business as Hero Driven Outfitters during this time, a self-described nonprofit whose mission, as noted on the group’s Facebook page was “to take disabled firefighters, law enforcement officers, and military personnel to the woods hunting and fishing.”

Schmit was one of those clients.

As a part of this scheme, Schmit was suspected of killing a black bear illegally during his trip in Ontario and allegedly used a bear license from a mentally disabled Canadian resident to make his black bear look legitimate.

“Wildlife crime knows no borders and I commend our Canadian counterparts, Wisconsin’s conservation wardens and our special agents for a solid investigation,” Edward Grace, deputy assistant director for law enforcement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stated in a news release.

Along with Canadian law enforcement agents, the Wisconsin-based investigative team determined that Viertel shot and killed a timber wolf in February 2012 without having an Ontario license.

The team also determined that in August 2013, Schmit traveled to Ontario with Viertel, where Schmit had shot and killed a black bear, also without a license. Schmit used a bear license from a Canadian resident to make his bear kill look legitimate. In both instances, Viertel falsified export documents from Ontario for the purpose of illegally importing the animal carcasses into the United States.

“This case illustrates the partnership that takes place among conservation agencies,” stated Todd Schaller, chief warden with the Bureau of Law Enforcement in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

In June, Schmit pleaded guilty to a single count of violating the Lacey Act, and was sentenced to a $1,000 fine, the forfeiture of the black bear, and a ban on hunting, fishing, and/or trapping in North America until Jan. 1, 2019.

Following this verdict, Viertel pleaded guilty to two offenses and was sentenced to three years of probation, to include at least 25 hours per year of environmental community service, forfeiture of the wolf and black bear, and a ban on hunting, fishing, and/or trapping in North America until Jan. 1, 2021.

Viertel also was ordered to serve the 2016 deer gun season from Nov. 19 through Nov. 27 in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and to pay the cost of his incarceration.

In the court proceedings, Haanstad said “the prosecution of offenders who intentionally violate wildlife laws helps protect and preserve natural resources both within and outside the United States.”

The prosecution was handled by assistant U.S Attorney Paul L. Kanter.

The court case follows the Canadian proceedings from December 2015, when Viertel and Schmit were convicted and collectively fined a total of $11,000 for a number of infractions.

In addition to these fines, Viertel lost his Canadian hunting privileges for 15 years and Schmit’s lost his for five years.

The Lacey Act

The Lacey Act is a federal law enforced by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of state, federal, tribal and foreign laws or regulations. The act defines the sale of wildlife to include the sale of guiding services for the illegal taking of wildlife. When the act was passed in 1900, it became the first federal law to protect wildlife. It enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants. Today, it regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species

Guilty plea in killing of Milwaukee transgender man

Victor L. Stewart pleaded guilty on June 5 to second-degree reckless homicide in the death of Evon “Yung LT” Young, a 22-year-old transgender man.

Stewart appeared in Milwaukee court with attorney Deborah S Vishny and pleaded guilty to the reduced charge. He is due to be sentenced on July 23, according to a court report.

Four others  – Ashanti Mcalister, Billy R. Griffin, Ron Joseph Allen and Devin L. Seaberry – remain in jail awaiting trial for first-degree homicide. Authorities say they kidnapped Young, beat him, killed him and then disposed of the body, which was possibly taken to a landfill.

Young’s mother reported her son missing on Jan. 2 after she received a phone call notifying her that he failed to show up for work. Young also failed to attend a dinner with family, prompting his mother to begin calling around, including to hospitals, in an effort to locate her son, according to previous Wisconsin Gazette reports.

Police, after taking the mother’s report, went to Young’s residence in the 5300 block of North 52nd Street to investigate.

The criminal complaint states that Young’s roommate, Griffin, initially said Young returned home from work on Jan. 1 but soon after left with an unknown person in a car. An officer searched the residence but didn’t find Young or anything unusual, according to the complaint.

In the days after, family and friends circulated fliers and searched for Young. His mother found a cell phone on the curb outside of his residence, which she turned over to police. It apparently had belonged to Stewart and then Mcalister and was last used the day Young disappeared.

Additional investigation by police found Stewart’s name in a stolen vehicle report filed about the time of Young’s disappearance by Stewart’s wife.

The vehicle, a Chevy Impala, had been seen by a witness outside Young’s residence and, when police located and seized the car, they found possible bloodstains inside, as well as fingerprints.

Stewart’s wife, according to the complaint, said she reported the car stolen because Stewart had it all night and returned it only the next morning, making her late for work. She also said when he returned home, Stewart was wearing different clothing and that her vehicle smelled of bleach and appeared recently washed.

The MPD arrested the five men based on witness statements, physical evidence and statements by Griffin and Stewart.

According to the complaint, Griffin changed his report and told police that Young arrived home on Jan. 1 and did not go out, instead they talked. Later in the night, the doorbell rang and Stewart, Allen, Mcalister and Seaberry – all members of the Black P-Stones – entered the residence.

Griffin said Stewart had a gun and said Young was going to die that night because he couldn’t be trusted. The complaint states that Griffin was told he would be welcomed into the gang if he killed Young.

Griffin told police that the other men punched Young in the face while Mcalister held a gun to Young’s head.

Eventually, the complaint continues, the men took Young to the basement, where they placed a bag over Young’s head. Young fought back, but then a chain was placed over his neck and Mcalister and Allen pulled on it until Young passed out.

Griffin said the attackers began beating Young with tools and, unable to watch any longer, he went upstairs, from where he could hear three gunshots.

The complaint states that Allen left and returned with bleach and duct tape and Stewart, Mcalister and Seaberry wrapped Young’s body in a sheet.

After they cleaned up the basement and showered, the men allegedly took Young’s body to a Dumpster.

Griffin, the complaint states, told police he received a call from Stewart, who told him, “The deed is done.”

Police investigators found blood in the basement on the walls and floor and a piece of duct tape with Stewart’s fingerprint.

The complaint also contains a statement from Stewart, who allegedly told police that Mcalister wanted to kill Young in the kitchen but Stewart told him not to do it there.

He said Mcalister, Allen, Seaberry and Griffin took Young to the basement and that Griffin provided the bag that was placed over Young’s head.

Stewart told authorities in January that Mcalister shot Young three times and that, after they cleaned up the basement, Griffin provided everyone with a change of clothing.

Artist pleads no contest in Chick-fil-A protest

An artist who painted a graffiti protest on a Chick-fil-A restaurant has pleaded no contest and been sentenced to three years’ probation.

Manuel Castro Jr., a West Hollywood artist, entered the plea last last week to accusations that he painted a picture of a cow and the words: “Tastes Like Hate” protesting the Chick-fil-A president’s comments against same-sex marriage.

City News Service reported that Castro pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor vandalism charge and was sentenced to three years’ probation, 200 hours of community service and $800 in fines and fees. He was ordered to stay away from Chick-fil-A establishments for the term of his probation.

He also was barred from possessing any paint, paintbrushes, spray paint, aerosol cans or vandalism tools outside his home. A restitution hearing was set for Jan. 9.

Texas inmate pleads guilty to anti-gay hate crime

An inmate in a federal prison in Texas has pleaded guilty to an assault against another inmate suspected of being gay.

John Hall, 27, incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institution in Seagoville, Texas, pleaded guilty Nov. 8  to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Hall assaulted another inmate on Dec. 20, 2011.

Justice said Hall admitted that he assaulted the victim because of his perceived sexual orientation by repeatedly punching and kicking the victim while calling the victim gay slurs. The victim sustained multiple lacerations to his face and chipped and fractured teeth in the attack.

In a statement, Thomas E. Perez, assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said, “The Justice Department continues to investigate and prosecute acts of violence targeting individuals because of their sexual orientation; this case is just another example of the department’s commitment to the pursuit of justice on behalf of all people regardless of their sexual preference or orientation.”

Hall faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for this crime.  

This case was investigated by the FBI Dallas Division and prosecuted by assistant U.S. Attorney Errin Martin and trial attorney Adriana Vieco of the Civil Rights Division.

Guilty verdict in Rutgers spycam case

A former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate’s love life was convicted of invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation Friday in a case that exploded into the headlines when the victim threw himself to his death off a bridge.

Dharun Ravi, 20, shook his head slightly after hearing guilty verdicts on all 15 counts against him. He and his lawyers left the courthouse without comment, his father’s arm around his shoulders.

He could get up to 10 years in prison, by some estimates — and could be deported to his native India, even though he has lived legally in the U.S. since he was a little boy — for an act that cast a spotlight on teen suicide and anti-gay bullying and illustrated the Internet’s potential for tormenting others.

Prosecutors said Ravi set up a webcam in his dorm room in September 2010 and captured roommate Tyler Clementi kissing another man, then tweeted about it and excitedly tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later. A half-dozen students were believed to have seen the live video of the kissing.

Within days, Clementi realized he had been watched and leaped from the George Washington Bridge after posting one last status update on Facebook: “Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry.”

At a courthouse news conference after the verdict, Clementi’s father, Joe, addressed himself to college students and other young people, saying: “You’re going to meet a lot of people in your life. Some of these people you may not like. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean you have to work against them.”

Rutgers said in a statement: “This sad incident should make us all pause to recognize the importance of civility and mutual respect in the way we live, work and communicate with others.”

During the trial, Ravi’s lawyer argued that the college freshman was not motivated by any hostility toward gays and that his actions were just those of an immature “kid.” The defense also contended Ravi initially set up the camera because he was afraid Clementi’s older, “sketchy”-looking visitor might steal his belongings.

The jury found Ravi not guilty on some subparts of some of the charges, but guilty of all 15 counts as a whole.

The most serious charges — bias intimidation based on sexual orientation, a hate crime — carry up to 10 years behind bars each. But legal experts said the most Ravi would probably get all together at sentencing May 21 would be 10 years.

Before the trial, Ravi and his lawyers had rejected a plea bargain that would have spared him from prison. He would have gotten probation and community service and would have been given help in avoiding deportation.

Ravi was not charged with causing Clementi’s death, and the suicide remained largely in the background at the trial, though some witnesses mentioned it and the jury was told Clementi had taken his life.

Prosecutors were not allowed to argue directly that the spying led to his death; defense lawyers were barred from saying there were other reasons he killed himself.

Each bias intimidation charge included five questions. A finding of guilty on any of them made Ravi guilty of the entire charge. The jury issued a split verdict on those subquestions.

It found, for example, that Ravi did not try to intimidate Clementi’s romantic partner, identified in court only as M.B., and that Clementi reasonably believed Ravi was trying to intimidate him because of his sexual orientation. It split on questions of whether Ravi knowingly or willfully intimidated Clementi because of his sexuality.

Clementi’s death was one in a string of suicides by young gays around the country in September 2010. President Barack Obama commented on it, as did talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

New Jersey lawmakers hastened passage of an anti-bullying law because of the case, and Rutgers changed its housing policies to allow people of the opposite sex to room together in an effort to make gay, bisexual and transgender students feel more comfortable.

Testimony came from about 30 witnesses over 12 days, including 32-year-old M.B. Ravi himself did not testify, though the jury watched a video of his interrogation by police.

Ravi and Clementi, both 18-year-old freshmen from comfortable New Jersey suburbs, had been randomly assigned to room together, and Clementi had arrived at college just a few days after coming out to his parents as gay.

A string of students testified they never heard Ravi say anything bad about gays in general or Clementi in particular. But students did say Ravi expressed some concern about sharing a room with a gay man.

On Sept. 19, according to testimony, Clementi asked Ravi to leave their room so that he could have a guest. Later, Ravi posted on Twitter: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Ravi told police that he watched only seconds of the encounter via computer.

His friend Molly Wei testified that she and a few other students also watched the live stream of the men kissing. (Wei was initially charged in the case but was later accepted into a pretrial program that will allow her to keep her record clean.)

Two nights later, Clementi asked for the room alone again. This time, Ravi tweeted: “I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes, it’s happening again.” He also texted a friend about a planned “viewing party” and, two students said, went to friends’ rooms to show them how to access the feed.

However, there was no evidence the webcam was turned on that night. Ravi told police he had put his computer to sleep. Prosecutors argued Clementi himself unplugged the computer.

According to testimony, Clementi submitted a room-change request form and talked to a resident assistant about what happened. He also used his laptop to view Ravi’s Twitter site 38 times in the last two days of his life. He killed himself Sept. 22.

Killer of gay California teen gets 21 years

A teenager from Oxnard, Calif., pleaded guilty today to second-degree murder in the killing of a gay classmate in a deal that will send him to prison for 21 years, The Associated Press is reporting.

The plea deal was reached in the case of 17-year-old Brandon McInerney, who was only 14 when he shot 15-year-old Larry King in the back of the head in front of their classmates in February 2008.

McInerney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm, said Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 19.

The case had been expected to go to retrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on the degree of guilt in September, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. The panel took a series of votes, the last one with seven in favor of voluntary manslaughter and five jurors supporting either first-degree or second-degree murder.

The case drew worldwide attention because prosecutors claimed McInerney killed King at E.O. Green Junior High School in a fit of homophobic rage.  McInerny had said he was offended by King’s effeminate dress and flirtatious behavior.

Prosecutors contended McInerney embraced a white supremacist philosophy that sees homosexuality as an abomination. Defense attorneys claimed he reached an emotional breaking point after King made repeated, unwanted sexual advances.

Prosecutors had previously offered a plea deal that would have sent McInerney to prison for 25 years to life, but his attorneys passed.

McInerney, who already served nearly four years since King’s slaying, will be released just shy of his 39th birthday. He is ineligible for time served or good behavior because he pleaded guilty to murder.