Friday, April 23, 2010

Brown County prosectutor pursues case against Wildlife Division officials

Jessica A. Little, Brown County prosecutor, said the first round of pre-trial hearings involving five of the six indicated Ohio Division of Wildlife officials was with their attorneys only.

However, the next series of pre-trial hearings before Brown County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Gusweiler will include the defendants as well.

"I did provide discovery after the court filings, though only one of them did not request discovery. That’s a bit unusual,” Little said.

Little did say that no trial dates have been set.

“I don’t know what the judge will do. Everybody will get out their books and look at the dates. Nothing is set yet with everything to be determined later,” Little said.

At issue is an alleged incident in which Allan Wright, the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County, was said to have allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address in order to obtain an Ohio hunting license.

Wright is charged with two counts of tampering with records (third-degree felonies) and one count of falsification for allegedly altering official Natural Resources records (a first-degree misdemeanor).

Also charged with one count of obstructing justice and one count of complicity to obstructing justice (fifth degree felonies) were five top Wildlife Division officials. Among these defendants is Wildlife Division chief David Graham, Assistant Wildlife Division chief Randy Miller, Wildlife Division District 5 (southwest Ohio manager Todd Haines, the Wildlife Division's law enforcement administrator James Lehman, and the agency's human resources manager Michele Ward-Tackett.

It is alleged that these officials should have handled the Wright case differently and investigated it as a criminal matter and not as an administrative matter that resulted in a verbal reprimand for Wright.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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