News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 24, 2012

Clay preserve targeted for safety

Indiana conservation officers serve warrants

BRAZIL — Allegations of hunting violations have resulted in the arrest of two Wabash Valley men and seizure of their property.

Indiana Conservation Officers served arrest warrants Thursday afternoon at the Prairie Grove Hunting Preserve at Clay County roads 300N and 425W, about two miles south of Indiana 42. Department of Natural Resources trucks rolled up the property’s driveway, hauling trailers upon which vehicles and other seized property were later loaded.

Police levied 20 counts against James L. Jacob, 37, Brazil, and eight against Ronald Hayne, 62, Terre Haute, following what officers described as a year-long investigation into possible violations of wildlife laws.

Jacob, a Clay County farmer and owner of the preserve, was released on bail Thursday evening. He maintained his innocence but declined further comment pending consultation with his attorney.

DNR spokesman Max Winchell said most of the allegations relate to what Jacob and Hayne, his employee, reportedly allowed clients to do rather than what they did themselves. None of the past clients is currently under investigation, Winchell said.

Winchell and Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger declined to comment whether undercover agents were used during the investigation.

“Officers became aware of some violations and launched their own investigation,” Winchell said, describing the allegations as ranging from class-C misdemeanors, such as “failure to post signage every 500 feet and single strand wire on the preserve’s boundary,” to one class-D felony count of “unlawful sale or shipment of wild animals.”

Hunting preserves are legal, DNR officers said at the scene, explaining normal activities include raising and releasing game fowl for hunting. Winchell said many of the problems seem to stem from the operators’ roles as “outfitters” and “hunting guides,” where illegal activity by clients was permitted.

Counts of “hunting from a public roadway” and instances of “night-shooting” and hunting after dark also raise issues of public safety, Reberger said.

“It’s a good old-fashioned safety issue,” he said.

Neither Jacob nor Hayne was ticketed or given citations for violations in the past, both Reberger and Winchell said.

Conservation officers executed a search warrant at Jacob’s home and property, seizing three pick-up trucks and a Kubota mini-excavator, as well as three rifles, two computers, animals and whitetail deer antlers.

Winchell said the DNR will re-evaluate the business’ licensure as the courts evaluate the charges.

According to a DNR media release, a person convicted of illegal possession of a whitetail deer or wild turkey must reimburse the state $500 for the first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation.

A class-D felony conviction carries a penalty of six months to three years in prison and fines up to $10,000. Class-B misdemeanor convictions carry potential penalties of up to 180 days in prison and fines up to $1,000. Convictions of class-C misdemeanors carry penalties of up to 60 days in prison and fines up to $500.

Jacob and Hayne were taken to the Clay County Jail and later released on bail at $7,000 and $5,000 respectively, police said.

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