Friday, 19 July 2024

REGIONAL: Man sentenced to three years in prison for abalone poaching

MENDOCINO COUNTY – A Potter Valley man has been sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted in an abalone poaching case.

Alan Dean Otis Palmer, 31, was sentenced in the case by Judge Richard Henderson on May 21, according to a Tuesday report from Mendocino County District Attorney Meredith Lintott's office.

Palmer had pleaded no contest to felony conspiracy to take 45 abalone for commercial purposes. Lintott reported that Henderson gave Palmer three years in state prison, a $20,000 fine and a lifetime fishing prohibition.

Early in the morning on July 21, 2009, Fish and Game Warden Joel Hendricks received a call from dispatch regarding a report that divers were possibly taking abalone behind the Little River Cemetery out of season, according to the report.

The warden observed two divers about 50 yards away from his location on the bluff. Each diver completed dives lasting nine seconds or more, returning to the surface several times, and handling things under the water, officials said.

After an hour the divers headed towards a sea cave entrance, which runs from the open ocean to a large sink hole on the Little River Cemetery property. Officials said Phillip Horch was there, acting as a lookout, and he told wardens that his two friends were diving for the purpose of one teaching the other to dive.

The two divers, Alan Palmer and Christopher Kern, then walked up the trail. They told the warden they were only spear fishing. Palmer was on felony probation for a past conviction for conspiracy to take abalone for commercial purposes. Not discovering any abalone in their possession, the warden advised all three persons they could leave.

At 11 p.m. that night Warden Hendricks, with the assistance of State Park Ranger Chris Glenn, climbed down into the sink hole. The tide had risen and sea water was pushing through the entrance to the sea cave. The warden saw a live abalone rolling around in the surf, leading him to believe it had been detached.

At 8:30 a.m. the next day, the report explained that the warden entered the sea cave and got into the water. He saw seven abalone clinging to small boulders, and then three game bags filled with abalone, all fresh and alive. There was a total of 45 abalone.

Warden Hendricks submitted a report to the district attorney's office, which charged the case and authorized three warrants of arrest.

On Aug. 31, 2009, prosecutor Tim Stoen presented the case against Palmer at a preliminary hearing before Judge Jonathan Lehan. Judge Lehan thereafter ordered Palmer to stand trial on the charges. Horch and Kern thereafter entered pleas in an associated case, receiving extensive jail terms.

This past April 23, Palmer – represented by defense attorney James Griffiths – entered a plea to the charge of felony conspiracy, and to a charge of commercial taking of abalone, each of which constituted an admission to violating his existing felony probation. He had been sentenced in October 2007 to a year in jail as a term of that probation, according to Lintott's office.

Upon being sentenced on May 21 by Judge Henderson on his new conspiracy charge and his probation violation, Palmer was immediately remanded to the California Department of Corrections to begin his prison term, Lintott's office reported.

Officials said three years is the maximum prison sentence for felony conspiracy in abalone cases.

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