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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2006

Official offered plea bargain for hunting violation

October 29, 2006

The Rutland Herald
By Dennis Jensen Staff Writer

A year after Kermit Spaulding was charged with baiting deer, the state's attorney prosecuting the case is offering the former state senator and present sergeant at arms at the Statehouse a chance to plead to a lesser charge.

Spaulding was charged by a Vermont game warden last October for baiting deer in Stowe during bow season.

Three years ago, Spaulding resigned his position on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board after pleading guilty to shooting at a deer decoy from his truck.

Spaulding, 70, was cited by game warden Dennis Reinhardt on both occasions.

Lamoille County State's Attorney Joel Page said Spaulding's case could be resolved soon.

"It's on for jury draw on Oct. 31, but I anticipate he'll be pleading to an offense of feeding deer before that date," Page said in an interview. "We are hopeful of arriving at a resolution."

Page said the state decided to dismiss the charge of baiting deer if Spaulding pleads guilty or no contest to the lesser charge of feeding deer.

The feeding deer charge is "virtually the same charge, but for Mr. Spaulding the baiting deer has a three-year license suspension," Page said. If Spaulding pleads to the feeding deer charge, he would lose his right to hunt, fish and trap in Vermont for two years.

Page said the state made the offer for Spaulding to plead to the lesser charge because the state would have to prove "whether there was intent to try to shoot a deer as part of baiting or whether it was the traditional practice of feeding deer."

The state Fish & Wildlife Board instituted a ban on feeding and baiting deer early in 2005.

Spaulding, a Stowe resident, could not be reached at home or at the Statehouse. Elected to the sergeant at arms post by legislators in 1997, Spaulding maintained that his first serious fish and wildlife offense was an isolated incident.

"I did it," he said. "Fifty years of community service, 60 years of hunting and one dumb moment."

After the latest offense, several lawmakers said that if Spaulding is guilty of the second offense and does not resign his post, they would be forced to look into the matter. The sergeant at arms runs the Statehouse and oversees its staff.

"Kermit has some explaining to do about his hunting practices," said Senate Pro Tem Peter Welch, D-Windsor, and a candidate for the U.S. House.

Welch could not be reached for comment on the latest developments.

House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, described the allegation against Spaulding as "serious" and said last year that the joint House and Senate Rules Committee would discuss the issue.

"It is not OK to either not be aware of the rules or violate them," Symington said.

Symington could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Gov. James Douglas said Friday that Spaulding is employed by the Legislature, so it is not his place to call for his resignation or to discipline the sergeant at arms.

Still, Douglas said that he found it troubling when public officials break the law.

"Every Vermonter and every visitor to our state is responsible for adhering to all the laws of Vermont, whether it's fishing and trapping or any other statutes the Legislature has passed," he said. "That certainly applies to public officials who have a public trust."

Page said that it was not unusual for a case like Spaulding's to be delayed for as long as it has.

"This problem is it's basically a ticket case and a low priority," he said. "Cases like this tend to get bumped so more serious cases can get trial time."

If Spaulding decides to pursue a jury trial, his case will probably be heard sometime in November, Page said.

Spaulding pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned on charges of baiting deer last December.

Contact Dennis Jensen at dennis.jensen@rutlandherald.com 

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