Monday, August 22, 2011

UPDATED: South Carolina wildlife officer not yet off the hook in Ohio

While South Carolina wildlife officer Eric Vaughn won’t face charges in his home state for his involvement in obtaining an Ohio resident hunting license in 2006 there is no guarantee that he’ll avoid a ticket in Ohio.

A decision whether to charge or not charge Vaughn will come only after an investigation is completed by the Ohio Highway Patrol, says an official with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

But Vaughn has all ready been cleared in his home state. An investigation by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Law Enforcement concluded that Vaughn acted in “good faith” when he thought Ohio Wildlife Division policy permitted him to buy an Ohio resident hunting license.

That belief stemmed from alleged assurances by Allan Wright, the former state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County, that it was okay for Vaughn to use Wright’s address in order to obtain the resident hunting license, an official with that state’s Law Enforcement Division says.

Consequently, South Carolina has concluded its investigation and will not take any action against Vaughn, says Col. Alvin Taylor of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Law Enforcement.

Taylor says also that it is South Carolina’s understanding that the federal government will not seek charges against Vaughn, either, though Wright was indicted on four counts last week by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged violations of the Lacey Act.

However, Ohio is reserving its right to take or not to take any action and pending an on-going investigation by the Ohio Highway Patrol, says Laura Jones, spokeswoman for the Ohio Natural Resources Department.

Jones said also that the Natural Resources Department is striving to be as “transparent as possible” as the entire process moves forward.

The agency provided "information regarding potential state crimes to the Ohio Highway Patrol" in late July, Jones said.

Asked when the Ohio Highway Patrol will conclude its investigation, Jones said she did not know.

“We will follow the lead of the Ohio Highway Patrol based upon its investigation,” Jones said. “We are working with them and we are being cooperative.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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