Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Richmond man sentenced in poaching case

LAKEPORT – A Richmond man has been sentenced to probation and fines for a 2009 deer poaching case.

On April 12 Joel Calzada-Morales, 52, pleaded no contest to illegal spotlighting. Judge Richard Martin then sentenced Calzada-Morales to three years probation, ordered him to pay a fine of $1,150 and revoked his hunting privilege for three years, according to a report from the Lake County District Attorney's Office.

In addition numerous items seized by game wardens were ordered forfeited to the state, including two spotlights, four gun cases, a Benelli M1 12-gauge shotgun, a Savage .17 caliber rifle, a Remington 30-06 rifle and a Henry .22 caliber rifle.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who prosecutes Fish and Game violations in Lake County, filed charges against Calzada-Morales and another co-defendant charging them with spotlighting and unlawful possession of deer parts.

Spotlighting is the unlawful use of artificial lights to assist in the taking of a game animal, and is committed when the rays of an artificial light are intentionally cast or directed in an area inhabited by wild animals while the person is in possession of a firearm or weapon that could be used to kill an animal.

It is not necessary that an animal actually be killed in order to be a violation of the spotlighting statute, officials reported.

According to investigation reports, on Nov. 24, 2009, Fish and Game wardens were patrolling the Mendocino National Forest using aircraft spotters and wardens on the ground.

At approximately 9 p.m. wardens observed a vehicle moving through the forest shining spotlights out of the vehicle and into the surrounding hillsides, including in the State Game Refuge.

At approximately 11:20 p.m. wardens were able to catch up to and contact the occupants of the vehicle, including Calzada-Morales.

In the bed of the pickup Wardens Loren Freeman and Mike Pascoe found fresh blood and hair that they suspected belonged to an illegally taken deer, although the animal itself was not found.

The suspects claimed the blood and hair was from a jack rabbit. Inside the vehicle wardens located guns and spotlights.

Samples from the bed of the truck were sent to the Department of Fish and Game Forensics Laboratory in Rancho Cordova for testing. The forensic test determined the blood and hair was from a deer.

Hinchcliff, who has prosecuted poaching cases for the last 10 years, told Lake County News on Tuesday that he's seeing fewer poaching cases coming for prosecution.

However, that's not necessarily because there is less poaching. Rather, he said there have been significant cuts to Department of Fish and Game resources in recent years, meaning fewer wardens with less time in the woods.

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