Former Ohio Division of Wildlife officer Matthew Roberts on Friday rejected an offer of a reduced sentence for his alleged role in deer hunting while on agency time.
The offer became public knowledge in Brown County Court of Common Pleas during a pretrail hearing. It was made by Brown County prosecutor Jessica Little.
Offered to Roberts - and rejected - was a reduced misdemeanor charge of dereliction of duty as well as the forfeiture of the weapon allegedly used during the alleged incident.
Roberts, 31, was charged in July for theft in office, a fifth degree felony, and tampering with records, a third degree felony.
A Fifth Degree Felony is punishable by a jail term of six to 12 months, a maximum fine of $2,500, or both; a Third Degree Felony is punishable by a jail term of one to five years in jail, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
Roberts was fired as a wildlife officer Sept. 28.
The charges stem from Robert’s alleged activity of hunting while on duty, and for allegedly turning in bogus time slips that supposedly showed he was on duty when he was allegedly hunting with former state wildlife officer Allan Wright, who had been assigned to Brown County.
However, Roberts will have another opportunity to accept a plea. A third pretrial hearing for Roberts is scheduled for noon, Jan. 16 before Brown County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott T. Gusweiler.
Should Roberts reject any potentially offered pretrial resolution to his case he then will face a jury trial, starting 9 a.m., Feb. 19, said Little.
Little said also that it is often unfortunate when a defendant rejects a plea offer since it’s in the court’s best interest to see a resolution without the time and expense of a jury trial.
“It’s not really my decision whether he takes the offer or not, but I made it,” Little said. “If (Roberts) doesn’t resolve this by accepting a plea then we will go to trial.”
And though Little says she cannot comment on co-defendant David Warner’s case, a pretrial hearing in this matter is set for 2:30 p.m., Nov. 19, also in the Brown County Court of Common Pleas.
Warner had been the field supervisor for the Wildlife Division’s District Five (southwest Ohio), a position he was fired from by the Wildlife Division on Sept. 21.
The case against Warner is the same for Roberts with the addition of a dereliction of duty charge, a Second Degree misdemeanor.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn