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MD-Poaching Probe Leads to Criminal Charges

Poaching Probe Leads to Criminal Charges
January 9, 2008 - 11:53am

By DAVID DISHNEAU
Associated Press Writer

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - A nine-month probe of alleged deer poaching has led to criminal charges and civil citations against a St. Mary's County man, the state Natural Resources Police said Tuesday.

John G. Middleton, 29, of Clements, allegedly used other people's hunting licenses to exceed the white-tailed deer bag limit by five. He also is charged with failing to attach state-issued tags to 13 deer he allegedly killed, Maryland Natural Resources Police Sgt. Ken Turner said.

In all, Middleton is charged with 36 hunting violations and nine criminal offenses, including three counts of falsifying public records, Turner said.

Middleton denied the charges in a telephone interview.

"They didn't catch me doing anything," said Middleton, a drywall contractor. "They don't have video. They don't have pictures."

Turner said the probe began last January when authorities got a tip about untagged deer heads allegedly belonging to Middleton. He said investigators seized two untagged, mounted trophy heads, which led them to Wathen's Taxidermy shop in Hollywood, where they found evidence of numerous other violations.

Middleton said the heads seized from his home were from a collection of about 20 personal trophies dating back to his teens. He said the missing tags, which were supposed to have been attached to the backs of the mounts, apparently fell off during a number of moves from one residence to another.

He said evidence from the taxidermy shop that allegedly tied him to illegal deer kills actually resulted from favors he did for friends by bringing their deer to the taxidermist and leaving his name and telephone number as the contact.

Most of the other criminal charges stem from a Sept. 3 incident in which Middleton allegedly shot a white-tailed buck using a spotlight at night while trespassing on private, posted farmland. He said the farmer who identified him was mistaken.

Maximum penalties for the criminal counts total more than 17 years behind bars and more than $10,000 in fines. The hunting violations carry maximum penalties totaling at least six months in jail and more than $40,000 in fines.

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