Pearl River County Judge dismisses three men in fisheries case

Published 7:00 am Thursday, July 7, 2016

Three men were cited by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for using unlawful methods of fishing, illegal possession of game and transporting illegally harvested fish from Mississippi to Louisiana, according to a press release from the LDWF.

According to the release, Lance O. Davis, 41, of Poplarville, James A. Howard, 51, of Poplarville, and Howard D. Restor, 40, of Lumberton were cited for harvesting fish after stunning them with a 12-volt electrical device on the Pearl River on August 11, 2015.

Transporting illegally harvested fish is a violation of the federal Lacy Act, which can bring up to $10,000 in fines and five years in jail, states the release.

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The LDWF and the MDWFP investigated the crime for a month after receiving an anonymous tip, states the release.

A LDWF agent reported seeing the three men use the shocking device first in Louisiana, and then again in Mississippi waters, states the release.

After the men brought the fish back to their camp in Louisiana, agents found 24 catfish filets, one whole catfish and other catfish parts, according to the release.

The violation entails a $400 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail, if convicted, states the release.

The release also states that James A. Howard was additionally cited for failing to comply with personal flotation device requirements and with engine cutoff safety switch requirements, a charge that carries up to a $50 fine each and up to 15 days in jail, if convicted.

MDWFP Enforcement Bureau Chief Steve Adcock told the Clarion-Ledger, “We had very good documentation they were violating the law in both states. We got them on video doing it in both states.”

The men pleaded guilty to the charge in Louisiana, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Judge Donald Fail dismissed the Mississippi charges in the Pearl River County Justice Court on June 16.

“We could not prove that [the defendants] were in Mississippi,” said Fail.

Fail said he was presented with video evidence at the trial from an LDWF officer.

“The state failed to present enough evidence for me to find them guilty,” said Fail. “I just have to go by the evidence that was presented.”

Fail said due to the lack of concrete evidence, he felt there was enough reasonable doubt to dismiss the case.

Though the defendants had pleaded guilty to the charges in Louisiana, they did not admit to them in Mississippi, said Fail.

Fail said when the LDWF officer presented the video showing three men committing the crimes, the defendant’s attorney, Albert Necaise, asked how the officer knew they were in Mississippi.

The officer responded that his GPS coordinates showed he was in Mississippi, however he did not show that evidence to the court, said Fail.

“I can’t interfere; I can’t say ‘show me the coordinates.’ If they would have presented a map with GPS coordinates the court would have seen a different thing,” said Fail.

In regard to the video presented, Fail said, “I wouldn’t have been able to identify them for sure, not by the video they had.”

After the case was dismissed, Adock said to the Clarion-Ledger, “The officers put in a lot of hard work and time documenting this case. I think it’s a shame all this testimony was not heard. At any rate, we’re going to continue to pursue these cases. They are robbing the resource. Regardless of what we get out of the court system, we are going to continue to do our job.”

About Julia Arenstam

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