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Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704


Master falconer bound for prison

Published in the Times Herald-Record, January 27, 2006

By Wayne A. Hall
For the Times Herald-Record
[email protected] 

White Plains - Saying master falconer Thomas Cullen of Goshen needed to be taught a lesson because "he thinks himself above the law," U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon sentenced him yesterday to four months in federal prison.

Cullen was found guilty Sept. 29 of scheming to import African black sparrow hawks by getting a friend in England to ship them to the states as the friend's pets. In fact, they were going to Cullen.

It is the first known prosecution under the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992, prosecutors said. The act forbids importing wild birds except as pets but says the pet birds can be bred.

Jurors also convicted Cullen of making false statements to investigators.

Cullen's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, insisted Cullen never intended to break any laws or lie to investigators and that his record as a passionate environmentalist should weigh heavily.

The judge praised Cullen's "good work" and didn't buy prosecutors' claim that Cullen was in the crime for money. But she also said Cullen's supercharged passion for the environment got him in trouble.

Incarceration was called for, said McMahon, because Cullen "thinks he doesn't have to obey the law or live by it - because he's the bird man!"

She said she was also swayed to send him to prison because he lied about his crime, "and there's a hard, fast rule in my house - you don't lie."

Cullen was scheduled to report to prison June 1. The judge gave him the spring breeding season to tend to his birds and said she would recommend the Federal Correctional Institution at Otisville since it's close to his Goshen home.

Cullen was also sentenced to a $1,000 fine and three years supervised release.

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