When will PGC release basic documents under RTKL?
Middleburg, PA: February 24, 2015, One week ago Falconer and Professional Public Speaker Mike Dupuy went into the Federal Court Building in Harrisburg to defend himself against Petty Offense Charges, that he illegally possessed a bird of Prey in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The trial was heard by Magistrate JudgeMartin C. Carlson who pronounced Dupuy Not Guilty at the conclusion of the 8 hour trial.
Although classified as a Petty Misdemeanor, Dupuy and his family were adamant that he had to fight the charge because pleading guilty and paying the $300 fine could have meant the revocation of one or both of his, Falconry and Raptor Propagation licenses.
Dupuy, a falconer and raptor breeder, was relived to hear the Judges pronouncement concluding his 8 month ordeal costing the small business owner an estimated $25,000 in legal fees. Turning from the defendant’s table Dupuy reached back and embraced his wife who had also lived through this twilight zone like situation with him.
“He has three different permits, that we pay the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission for, he’s licensed to do exactly what he did. We file reports, we send in documentation. What was the point of all of this?” said Christine Dupuy, “It felt personal, it felt like an attack, it was senseless to put us through this. And who knows what it cost the state and government to prosecute the case.”
US Attorney Peter J. Smith presented testimony from FWS Agent Randy Cottrell, PGC Wildlife Conservation Officer Harold Malehorn, and PGC Chief of Special Permits Chad Eyler.
Dupuy’s Attorney, James Lister of the Washington DC law firm Birch, Horton, Bittner and Cherot presented a solid case solely with the testimony of Dupuy outlining that both the PA and US code allow raptors to be taken from the wild for purposes of propagation.
“It was an unwarranted prosecution,” said Attorney Lister.
In 2012 Dupuy contacted Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) stating his intention to take goshawks from the wild with an intent to propagate them. No one at either agency told him that he wasn’t permitted to take wild goshawks. In June 2014 when Dupuy informed PGC that he had goshawks from the wild in his possession he was sent a notice of violation from FWS and his legal odyssey began.
“No phone call came from any one at PGC or FWS trying to discuss the problem at hand.” said Dupuy “In fact, my Pennsylvania Attorney, Tom Boop, contacted PGC back in June asking for a meeting to work out the problem. He was told there wouldn’t be a meeting because the charges were already moving forward through Federal Fish and Wildlife. The PGC literally made a federal case out of it.”
Dupuy left the courtroom last Wednesday thinking this trip down the rabbit hole was behind him only to now realize his fight against the PGC isn’t over.
While preparing for trial Dupuy requested documents to him, from him and about him from the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) under Pennsylvania’s Right To Know Law (RTKL). Dupuy’s initial request for his documents was denied, but his appeal was upheld by the Office of Open Records (OOR), he expected to receive the documents right before his trial.
Instead, Dupuy received a letter stating the PGC was appealing the ruling, meaning Dupuy would not get his documents prior to his Federal Court Date. It also meant he would have to go to court again, which will require him to hire another attorney, to fight to receive documents that should be accessible to him through the RTKL.
“I could almost understand them denying me access to the documents before the trial, but why deny me the documents after the trial?” said Dupuy “What could be in those documents that they don’t want me to see? It shouldn’t matter. We either live in a free country where citizens are allowed to see these basic documents or we live in a Police State where the Government can keeps secret files on innocent people.”
Dupuy a bird of prey expert, just back from the United Arab Emirates for The International Festival of Falconry, and then a quick trip to speak at the California Hawking Clubs Annual Field Meet on: “The Decriminalization of Falconry,” says: “I speak to falconers and raptor propagators from around the United States and I have gotten nearly universal positive feedback from them on my legal issue. What troubles me is how many falconers tell their own stories of perceived harassment by FWS or their local Game Commission and their warnings that I could be targeted for further legal action by either agency.”
“Falconry is NOT a crime.” Dupuy states adamantly “Why are falconers and raptor propagators targeted this way?”