Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Clients blame outfitter in SW poaching case

By Dean
Bortz
Editor

Madison — Persons charged from across the country in a
southwestern Wisconsin deer and turkey poaching case who have been
willing to talk to the media are mostly placing the blame for their
violations on outfitter Adam Lee Lawinger, 27, proprietor of Blue
River Outfitters.

DNR chief warden Randy Stark said that defense is not likely to
fly with state and federal judges.

“Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the hunter to know and
follow the regulations of where you hunt,” Stark said. “Availing
yourself to a guide does not absolve a hunter of a need to know or
follow regulations of wherever you hunt. That’s part of being a
responsible hunter.

“If you polled law-abiding hunters across the country, I’m sure
they would agree with that statement. I think responsible guides
would also agree with the fact that it’s part of their
responsibility to make sure they’re following the regulations. The
livelihood of a guide depends on natural resources being there,” he
said.

Stark offered that opinion after several defendants from Florida
said they believe it would have been Lawinger’s responsibility, as
an outfitter to make them aware of Wisconsin’s laws.

According to reports in the Pensacola News Journal, of
Pensacola, Fla., two of the Florida defendants in this case are
Escambia County Sheriff Ron McNesby and Escambia County
Commissioner Mike Whitehead. Both were charged with violating
Wisconsin hunting laws and are pleading ignorance of that state’s
regulations. They’ve accused Lawinger of deceiving them.

According to news reports, a third Florida defendant is Rev.
Gordon Godfrey of Marcus Pointe Baptist Church, one of the largest
churches in Pensacola. Godfrey was one of the first Pensacola area
residents to book guided hunts with Lawinger.

Godfrey then convinced members of his church to also travel to
Wisconsin to hunt with Lawinger. Godfrey told McNesby about the
hunts, too.

Of the 48 people charged in the two-year undercover
investigation, 18 of them are from the Pensacola area.

Godfrey faces 12 charges in two Wisconsin counties. He declined
to discuss his case last week.

McNesby told reporters that Wisconsin investigators interviewed
him in Pensacola last May about his hunting trips with Lawinger. He
described the interviews as “cordial.” McNesby said he believed
that investigators were interviewing him to build a case against
Lawinger. Whitehead and McNesby face several charges linked to a
three-day gun deer-hunting trip last February. Whitehead said the
hunt included lodging, meals, licenses, and transportation to a
hunting site. The cost was supposed to be $1,000 per person, but
Lawinger gave them a $300 discount because of bad weather,
according to documents filed with the Richland County Circuit
Court. Whitehead has hunted with Lawinger three times. McNesby said
he didn’t fire a shot during the trip.

Following the Nov. 10 press conference in Richland Center where
DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators rolled out
details of the case, several investigators hinted that some
well-known defendants will be charged with hunting violations. Last
week, Stark acknowledged that McNesby, Whitehead, and Godfrey would
be considered “higher profile” defendants, based on their
occupations. Stark said he was not at liberty to identify any other
people from the list of defendants as “high-profile,” or
“well-known” individuals.

When asked if the investigation was still continuing and whether
more defendants could be added to the list, Stark said, “I can’t
confirm or deny that the investigation is ongoing or complete.”

Charges filed

Defendants charged with violations by Iowa County are Daniel
Antillon, Fontana, Calif.; David Barnes, Pensacola, Fla.; Robert
Becker, Eden Prairie, Minn.; Albert Bowen, Cantonment, Fla.;
Jeremiah Camping, Chino, Calif.; Mike Cavaliere, Pensacola, Fla.;
Robert Dartez, Lafayette, La.; Ronald Edwards, Manteno, Ill.; Dirk
Foster, Pace, Fla.; Ernest G. Godfrey, Pensacola, Fla.; Gregory
Godfrey, Pensacola, Fla.; Lyle Hach, Middleton, Wis.; Stephen S.
Lacoste, Pace, Fla.; Gabriel Lopez, Glendora, Calif.; Douglas
Mihalak, York, Pa.; Barron Naar, Pensacola, Fla.; Samuel Phillips,
Panama City, Fla.; Bradford Pittman, Pensacola, Fla.; Stephen M.
Porter, Pensacola, Fla.; John Quina, Cantonment, Fla.; Cleophas
Rojas, Barataria, La.; Eric Todd Stafford, Cantonment, Fla.; Justin
Tyner, Pace, Fla.; Riley R. Wallace, Gulf Breeze, Fla.; Robert
Yarnell, Cantonment, Fla.

Defendants charged in Richland County are Tony Andrade, Visalia,
Calif.; Nicholas Bolen, Ramona, Calif.; Joseph Culton, Hemet,
Calif.; Rod Daniel, Monrovia, Calif.; Ernest G. Godfrey, Pensacola,
Fla.; Joseph Hardy, Cantonment, Fla.; Eric Herndon, El Cajon,
Calif.; Dennis Herrington, El Cajon, Calif.; William F. Hill,
Fairfield, Texas; Roland Hood, Exeter, Calif.; Joseph Knieriem,
Citrus Heights, Calif.; Stephen S. Lacoste, Pace, Fla.; Mitchell
McKie, Spearfish, S.D.; Ronald McNesby, Pensacola, Fla.; David W.
Morgan, El Cajon, Calif.; Bradford Pittman, Pensacola, Fla.;
Michael S. Porter, Cantonment, Fla.; Joseph Schwab, Apopka, Fla.;
Robert Weggesser, Ridgecrest, Calif.; David M. Whitehead,
Pensacola, Fla.

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