PA: Coyote hunter cleared

Kylertown, Pa. – The Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s Club recently
lost a court hearing to the participant who had been disqualified
from its coyote hunt for failing a polygraph test.

Witnesses testified for both sides during the hearing, which lasted
for more than an hour. In the end, Clearfield County District Judge
Michael Rudella ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Robert Brown, of
Tunkhannock.

“It is good to have my name cleared,” Brown said. “The Mosquito
Creek Sportsmen didn’t have a legal foot to stand on.”

Brown entered a 45.6-pound coyote during the annual Mosquito Creek
annual hunt, held Feb. 25-27. His coyote moved him into second
place, making Brown eligible for a prize of $4,249.

But he was later eliminated from competition after he failed a
polygraph test. The club had made the polygraph a new requirement
for the top three prize winners. However, the change was put into
place less than two weeks before the statewide contest began.

According to club President Ron Sartori, Brown’s answers to all
three critical polygraph test questions indicated that he was
probably not telling the truth.

The questions were – “Did you shoot this coyote?” “Did you shoot it
in Pennsylvania?” And, “was it shot during the legal period of the
hunt?”

Brown still contends that he shot the coyote in Susquehanna County
in Pennsylvania during the legal three-day hunt period.

“The whole idea was ridiculous to begin with. Why would I even try
to cheat with a 45-pound coyote?” Brown said. “Usually much heavier
ones, coyotes at or above 50 pounds, win the contest.”

Brown remains unhappy about how the polygraph was given.

“The way that they gave that test just wasn’t fair,” Brown
contends. “The operator should not have asked questions about my
family.

“Then we got into it right away over when the hunt started,
Thursday at midnight or Friday at midnight. He didn’t even know
when the hunt started.

“The test is based on blood pressure, and he knew damn well that he
got my blood pressure up,” Brown said. “I think that the guy giving
the test was looking to have a scapegoat – to make his presence
worthwhile.”

According to District Judge Rudella, the case was never about the
polygraph.

“For me it was a contract issue only. I based my decision on what
he [Brown] had signed before bringing in any animals.

“He had a contract with the club and it didn’t include the
polygraph. The club had put up signs and put a notice on their
website just before the hunt, but that was long after Mr. Brown had
signed up for the contest.”

According to Sartori, Brown had also signed an agreement with the
polygrapher right before the test was administered; it said that he
would abide by the results of the test. Sartori wondered why that
didn’t count before the judge.

Rudella explained it this way: “Anything that the hunter agreed to
the day that he brought in his coyote would be considered having
been signed under duress. He was told sign this or you will forfeit
the prize. I looked at what he had originally signed.”

Brown and his usual hunting partner spend quite a bit of time
entering and hunting in organized coyote hunts each winter. “We
entered coyotes in at least 30 hunts last winter. We split the
prize money evenly,” he said. “I just wanted to clear my
name.”

As to whether or not he felt that he had been vindicated by the
judge, he replied, “Well, I’m still waiting to get my money.”

Club President Sartori has every intention of paying Brown.

“I got a bill from the magistrate, and I just expected to go down
there and write a check, but now my attorney says that he needs a
‘release to pay judgment.’ Actually, I don’t even see why the
attorneys are still mixed up in it. The decision was in Brown’s
favor, and we will pay him.

“This was a costly lesson for us, but we learned a lot in the
process,” Sartori added.

“Our attorney encouraged us to not give up on the polygraph.
Although some discussions still have to occur within the club, we
plan to rewrite everything to clearly indicate that any participant
in the hunt could be subject to a polygraph test.

“It will be in our August newsletter and right on the application.
The next time, we will be sure to cross every ‘t’ and dot every
‘i.'”

Judge Rudella noted that although he ruled in favor of Brown, the
lie-detector test was not the problem.

“I made it very clear to both sides that, if the polygraph
requirement had been advertised and in the contract and the hunter
had failed the test, then the hunter would have forfeited the
prize,” he said.

As to whether Brown will ever again enter the Mosquito Creek hunt
or take the polygraph, he answered, “Yes, I hope to enter next
year, unless they kick me out.

“I’d take the polygraph again, too, but I want someone else in the
room with me,” Brown said. “I will only answer questions about the
hunt – nothing personal.”

The Mosquito Creek Sportsmen’s Club Coyote Hunt is the largest in
the United States, with prize money totaling nearly $35,000.
According to Sartori, the polygraph test will be an annual part of
their contest.

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