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MD - Mount Savage man awaits sentencing for negligent hunting

Mount Savage man awaits sentencing for negligent hunting

Michael A. Sawyers Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — A Mount Savage man pleaded guilty Tuesday to negligent hunting in December that resulted in the death of a Rawlings man.

Eric Franklin Riggs, 32, will await a presentence investigation before finding out which portions of a plea agreement Allegany County Circuit Judge Gary Leasure will impose.

Riggs, who was represented by attorney Ramon Rozas III, was ordered by Leasure to immediately forfeit the rifle used in the shooting of James Wayne Dawson Jr., 46, on Dec. 8, the final day of the Maryland firearms season for deer.

On the day of the shooting, Riggs told Cpl. John Milbourne of the Maryland Natural Resources Police that he thought he was shooting at a deer.

“We are requesting that the maximum fine of $1,500 be imposed, with the judge to suspend whatever portion he sees fit,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Alexander, who prosecuted the case. In addition, the plea agreement seeks a probation period, and Alexander has asked that Riggs not be allowed to purchase a hunting license during that time.

By law, the maximum suspension of hunting privileges for negligent hunting is five years, though Milbourne said the Dawson family may petition the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to administratively increase that suspension.

Finally, the state has asked that Riggs be required to appear in a video about the incident that would then be used during hunter education courses throughout the state.

Leasure said he would rule once the presentence investigation is complete. It is common, according to Alexander, for such investigations to take about five weeks.

In court Thursday, Alexander read from Milbourne’s interview of Riggs and the subsequent investigation.

The shooting took place on private land near a dirt motorcycle track about one mile south of the Rawlings Post Office on the west side of U.S. Route 220. Milbourne said Dawson was shot at a distance of 68 feet. The bullet, from a 30.06 caliber rifle, clipped the right arm and continued through the chest and exited near the left arm. Dawson’s 11-year-old son was walking immediately behind him.

“The call to 911 was at 6:38 a.m. and the shot was likely no more than a minute before that,” said Alexander. “In fact, Mr. Riggs made the call while he was running to Dawson.”

At that time, Riggs is said to have called his hunting partner, who ran to the scene.

In the interview by Milbourne, Riggs is described as having been distraught. Riggs told Milbourne that immediately after the shot he heard Dawson’s son scream.

The shot took place, according to Alexander, before the legal shooting time that day of 6:53 a.m. The day of the shooting was the one day when antlerless deer could be taken legally during firearms season in Allegany County, Alexander pointed out in court.

The incident came to be prosecuted following an indictment in January by the county’s grand jury. The penalties for a first offense of negligent hunting do not include jail time. Riggs’ plea was of the Alford variety, which does not admit guilt, but which recognizes that a conviction would likely take place.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com 

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