In a case that has raised the ire of area hunters, five people accused of numerous wildlife violations involving spotlighting deer and poaching turkeys in Dodge County were sentenced Feb. 28 after pleading guilty to all charges against them. Two remaining defendants in the case, who entered not-guilty pleas, are scheduled for a June trial.
The case, which began with an investigation of two men accused of involvement with a single poached turkey in June of 2009, grew to include more than 113 counts against seven individuals after DNR law enforcement officers found evidence in a search of residences. The officers confiscated computers, cell phones and animal parts from those involved as evidence.
The charges were later streamlined down to just 15 counts against the seven individuals before the initial trial date on Jan. 14.
As part of a plea bargain struck with Cordele Circuit Assistant DA Matthew Brown, who handled the case after the Oconee Circuit DA recused himself for personal connections, the length of the guilty parties’ hunting suspensions were reduced in exchange for guilty pleas and an agreement to testify in court against the two defendants who pleaded not guilty.
“We may not be able to send them to jail, like some people think,” said DNR law-enforcement Cpl. Johnny Ashe. “But we are getting basically full prosecution as if they just went in and pled guilty to the original charges in the beginning.”
Brandon Brisco, of Eastman, pleaded guilty to possession of more than the bag limit of turkeys and unlawful possession of wildlife. He was sentenced to pay $810 in fines and court costs and 24 months probation.
Durwood “Trey” Franklin Graham III, of Eastman; Summer Paige Warren, of Rentz; and Michael Warren, of Rentz, each pleaded guilty to hunting deer at night, hunting from a motor vehicle, hunting without permission, hunting from a public road and unlawful possession of wildlife. The three of them were each sentenced to pay fines and court costs of $2,362.50 and two-year hunting suspensions. Graham was sentenced to 36 months of probation. Warren and Warren were each sentenced to 24 months probation.
Cody James Coleman, of Marietta, pleaded guilty to two counts of hunting at night, hunting from a motor vehicle, hunting without permission, hunting from a public road and two counts of unlawful possession of wildlife. He was sentenced to pay fines of $3,112.50, 24 months probation and a three-year hunting suspension. Coleman must also pay $475 in restitution for one of the deer he killed.
Probation fees of $30 a month for each of the guilty parties will also be collected. As part of the terms of the bargain, all of the hunting suspensions were applied retroactively to the date of arrest, which means all of the guilty parties, except Coleman, will be able to legally obtain hunting licenses this summer. Coleman’s hunting suspension will end in the summer of 2012.
The two remaining defendants, William Stacy Jones and Mary Michelle Warren, both of Eastman, both face charges of hunting at night, hunting from a public road, hunting without permission and unlawful possession of wildlife. Also, Jones faces additional charges of hunting at night, unlawful possession of wildlife, unlawful hunting of birds, hunting without a license, hunting out of season for turkeys and failure to record deer harvest.
Michael Warren also faces charges in Laurens County from the same investigation. In Laurens County, he is accused of hunting deer at night, hunting from a public road and hunting turkeys out of season.
Chad Pritchett, assistant DA in Laurens County, declined to comment on the case.