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WI: 3 accused of illegal hunting

June 24, 2009

Judge deals setback to prosecution in second deer-killing case

By Dan Wilson Post-Crescent staff writer

WAUPACA — A second judge in the Waupaca deer slaughter case gave the prosecutor until Monday to either drop the felony mistreatment charges or the misdemeanor illegal hunting charges against Rory Kuenzi, 24.

The decision comes on the heels of dismissed felony charges against a co-defendant.

Judge Philip Kirk, in what turned into a dressing down Wednesday of the Assistant Dist. Atty. James Fassbender, was clearly irked at what he called a “goat rodeo” in the myriad of charges filed against Kuenzi and his two-co-defendants in a high-profile case that is showing signs of unraveling.

“These charges are inconsistent,” Kirk said. “You have to decide what you want to do.”

Kirk agreed with Public Defender Troy Nielsen’s argument that the state “cannot have it both ways.”

Kuenzi, his brother Robby Kuenzi, 23, and Nicholas Hermes, 23, are accused of running down and killing a group of deer with their snowmobiles Jan. 9 in the Town of Lind. They also face a laundry list of state Department of Natural Resources citations.

Kirk’s decision mirrors in many respects the decision reached by Judge John Hoffmann, who is hearing the case against Robby Kuenzi. At a June 11 hearing, Hoffman dismissed the felony mistreatment charges against Robby Kuenzi ruling they were incompatible with the companion hunting violations.

“And it is because of your charging decision,” Kirk said. “Overcharging is the swine flu of the criminal justice system.”

Kuenzi is charged with six counts of felony mistreatment of an animal causing death and six misdemeanor counts of hunting out of season. Under the statutes, hunters cannot be charged with mistreatment of animals.

Kirk read the text of the misdemeanor hunting complaints out loud, noting that they are identical to the animal cruelty complaints.

“So is this ‘venicide’ or really bad hunting?” Kirk asked. “What is it?”

Kirk also signaled he would be setting a high legal threshold if the state chooses to pursue the animal cruelty charges.

“That does not necessarily mean that hunting is not a factual issue in the underlying offenses,” said Kirk. “You get to decide how you want to prosecute this case.”

Fassbender declined comment as he left the courtroom.

The three defendants all have different judges hearing their cases. Hermes’ case is on hold while the legal issues in the other cases are untangled. A status conference for Hermes in front of Judge Raymond Huber is set for July 22.

The other two defendants were originally charged with nearly identical charges as Rory Kuenzi -- five animal cruelty and hunting out of season charges rather than six.

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