Jessica A. Little, Brown County prosecutor, is praising former Ohio Division of Wildlife officer Allan Wright for pleading guilty in federal court Friday for violating the federal Lacey Act.
Wright, 45, of Russellville, first came on Little’s radar screen about two years ago following a report from the Ohio Inspector General’s office that then-alleged inappropriate actions were taken by Wright as the state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County.
Wright later admitted to allowing in 2006 a South Carolina wildlife officer to use the former’s home address in order to obtain a resident Ohio hunting license, among other issues.
In turn the entire affair led to charges again five current as well as retired Wildlife Division officials. Their cases remains pending before Little.
State charges against Wright were dropped by a special prosecutor named by Little because the wildlife officer was protected by what’s known as the Garrity Rule. That legal rule protects some government employees from offering testimony if it also threatens their job by speaking.
Wright later was charged by the U.S. Justice Department for two felony and two misdemeanor counts for violating the federal government’s Lacey Act. This law deals with the trafficking and movement across state lines of fish and game that was taken illegally elsewhere.
Last Friday Wright pleaded guilty to the charges. His sentencing before the federal courts is expected to come later this spring.
However, Little said Wright is to be commended for admitting to his guilt.
“When someone takes responsibility for their contact, that is the first step toward rehabilitation and reconciliation,” Little said. “Now he will be able to begin moving forward in a positive manner. When they do that it’s always a good move in putting their past behind them. We always want see the turn-around.”
However, Little refrained from commenting on whether the currently indicted five Wildlife Division officials - including the agency’s former chief and one assistant chief - should follow Wright’s lead.
The so-called Brown County five has a pre-trial meeting at 1 p.m., March 12.
At this meeting various legal matters will be discussed including any discovery of evidence, when a trial might begin and other legal issues, Little said also.
“Maybe by then we’ll know whether they will make an appeal before the Ohio Supreme Court,” Little said as well.
Jeffrey L. Frischkorn