Friday, February 24, 2012

(LATEST UPDATE) Allan Wright pleads guilty in federal court

Allan Wright, 45, of Russellville and the former state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County, pleaded guilty in United States District Court/Southern District of Ohio today (Friday) to violating the Lacey Act by trafficking in and making false records for illegally harvested white-tailed deer.

The announcement was made this afternoon (Friday) by the U.S. Justice Department.

Newly received court documents say that Wright entered guilty pleas to all four counts.

It is important to note that a felony conviction of a felony count has possible severe consequences for a person who is also a hunter and firearms’ owner. If an individual is convicted of a felony that person cannot own, possess or use a firearm, even for such activities as target shooting, firearms collection, personal protection or hunting.

The Justice Department says in its press release that “Wright committed the Lacey Act crimes while he was employed as a wildlife officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.”

The release is available for viewing at:

Former Ohio Wildlife Officer convicted of trafficking in white-tailed deerWright’s employment as a wildlife officer was terminated after he was indicted in August 2011, The Justice Department said.

And as part of his plea agreement, Wright has agreed not to appeal his termination, says the Justice Department as well.

Likewise as part his plea, says the Justice Department, Wright admitted that, using his authority as a wildlife officer, he sold a resident Ohio hunting license to a non-resident hunter in 2006.

“That hunter used the illegal Ohio resident hunting license to kill three white-tailed deer. As part of his plea,

Wright admitted that he ‘checked in’ those deer by providing a false Ohio residence address for the non-resident hunter in order to make it appear that the deer were killed by an Ohio resident.

“After the deer were checked in, the non-resident hunter transported them in interstate commerce from Ohio to South Carolina,” the Justice Department said.

Also as part of his plea, Wright admitted that, “using his authority as a wildlife officer,” he seized white-tailed deer antlers from a hunter who had killed a deer illegally in 2009, the Justice Department said.

“Wright admitted that, rather than disposing of the antlers through court proceedings, as required by Ohio law, he knowingly supplied them to another individual who transported them from Ohio to Michigan,” the Justice Department says.

Another condition of his plea, “Wright admitted that he filed an official state form, which falsely reported that he had personally destroyed those antlers,” the Justice Department said.

The presiding federal judge in the case - Michael Barrett - has ordered a presentencing investigation report. This report is due May 7, court documents say. At that point another court appearance will be required where Wright faces sentencing.

He can receive a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine per count, says the Justice Department.

By way of review, Wright was under indictment for felony and misdemeanor violations of the federal government’s Lacey Act.

Wright agreed to state complaints that in 2006 he allowed a South Carolina wildlife officer to use his Ohio address to obtain a resident state hunting license.

He subsequently was given a written reprimand which was eventually expunged. That action set in legal motion charges being brought against five current or retired Ohio Division of Wildlife officials.

However, Wright had been reinstated to his Wildlife Division post, only to be placed on unpaid administrative leave last August when he was charged in federal court for the alleged Lacey Act infractions.

The matter involving the five current and former Wildlife Division officials remains open before the Brown County Court of Appeals.

In a ruling announced last month by the five-member 12th District Court of Appeals the five felony-indicted officials are not protected by the so-called “Garrity Rule.”

This legal fiat protects certain government employees from testifying on matters if they believe doing so would jeopardize their jobs.

The defendants’ attorneys said the rule applied to their clients, a position accepted by Brown County Common Pleas Court judge Scott Gusweiler.

However, Brown County prosecutor Jessica A. Little took issue with that ruling and appealed Gusweiler’s opinion before the state’s 12th District Court of Appeals.

Little won the legal support of the appellate judges.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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