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Judge in `deer lady' case accused of feeding deer

Associated Press Writer
March 2, 2005, 5:38 PM EST

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. -- A town justice who took himself off the case of a  woman charged with illegally feeding wild deer was accused days later of   committing the same offense.

Justice Thomas Kolbert was accused of violating the state's deer- feeding  ban in a Feb. 16 complaint to the state Department of Environmental   Conservation, DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren confirmed Wednesday.

Wren said Kolbert was not ticketed by the DEC because, prior to the conclusion of an investigation, the citizen complainant opted to file the  violation directly with the town court. The DEC assisted in filing the  paperwork, she said.

Kolbert did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Jeffrey Whiting, one of the Buffalo suburb's two prosecutors, said he had   not seen any paperwork related to the case and could not comment on its status.  

The other town attorney, James Vallone, did not immediately respond to a   telephone message.

Two days before the DEC received the complaint, Kolbert recused himself  from the case of Anita Depczynski, a retiree facing a potential jail sentence  for repeatedly feeding the deer in the town's Stiglmeier Park.

Kolbert at the time cited local reaction to the deer-feeding issue.

"Since this case has hit, people are coming up to me _ political people," Kolbert said.

The DEC in 2002 imposed the statewide feeding ban, saying human-fed deer   herds increase the potential for chronic wasting disease, an infectious and deadly brain disease.

The ban was felt strongly in Stiglmeier Park, where feeding the deer had   been a tradition for more than 20 years. The animals, given names like Piglet, Pumpkin and Toothpick, are so tame they eat from visitors' hands.

Depczynski, 64, became known as the "deer lady" because of her regular  habit of feeding the deer cracked corn and wild apples from a red wagon.

She has   been cited by the DEC on numerous occasions and was sentenced by a different   judge to 15 days in jail after being convicted of deer feeding last year. An   appeal is pending. That conviction followed a 2003 conviction on the same   charge, for which she was given a conditional discharge.

Upon hearing of the accusations against Kolbert, Depczynski defended the judge and said he should not be prosecuted.

"I hope this doesn't stop him from feeding the wildlife," she said. "There is no food for the wildlife out there."

Those who violate the ban face potential fines of up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail.

Copyright 2005, The Associated Press

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