A Missouri judge is hoping that the magic of Disney can turn a man behind one of the biggest poaching operations in the state’s history into an animal-lover.
For the next year of his life, David Berry Jr. is required to watch the movie Bambi at least once a month.
Berry will also be serving the more conventional sentence of a year behind bars but Judge Robert George is hoping that the tragic story of doe-eyed deer who loses his mother will help the punishment he gave Berry see the natural world in a gentler light.
Poaching for “the thrill of the kill”
Though Berry’s case is making headlines for his unusual sentence, the story of his crimes is every bit as shocking as its conclusion.
Berry is no small-time poacher. He was at the center of a case that Missouri regulators are calling “one of the biggest poaching cases in state history,” and was brought down in a massive, multi-year investigation involving state, federal, and Canadian law enforcement agencies and conservation officers.
Berry, his family, and a group of his friends, court records say, illegally killed hundreds of deer over a period of at least three years.
The poaching group used multiple illegal hunting techniques, including slaughtering deer from the roadsides while driving and blinding the deer with bright lights to get them to stand still for an easy kill.
Then they would cut off their heads, take them home as trophies, and leave their bodies to rot.
“Taking just the heads is their version of obtaining a ‘trophy’ and leaving the carcass behind is merely an afterthought,” Missouri Department of Conservation division chief Randy Doman told the Springfield News-Leader. “While there are some cases where poachers go after the antlers for profit, with this bunch it was more about the thrill of the kill itself.”
Investigators spent three years trying to bring down the poaching operation, which has resulted in a total of 230 charges against 14 people they say were involved in the slaughter.
The group has been forced to pay a combined $51,000 in fees. Berry and his father, David Berry Sr., have both lost been stripped of hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges for life, and several members of the poaching group have been sentenced to prison.
David Berry Jr. was the only member of the poaching group to receive his unusual sentence.
More to the story
KSL Newsradio’s Dave and Dujanovic talked about this story on the air, and they didn’t see eye-to-eye on David Berry Jr.’s unusual sentence. Debbie says: “A year and jail and watching Bambi once a month? It’s almost a joke to me and not a deterrent,” but Dave is thrilled. He says: “This judge is a hero!”
If you missed the show live, you can still catch everything they had to say on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.
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