Monday, December 9, 2013

Game Warden Files--the Sweethearts.

That wasn't their name, but since the name was related to love, romance and all that stuff, that's what we'll call them. Mr. Sweetheart was fishing from a big rock along the shoreline in one of the private campgrounds that dot the shoreline of the Great Sacandaga Lake when fellow ECO Jim Harnish and I happened by on our boat and stopped to check him out. Mrs. Sweetheart was sitting on the rock with him reading a book.
We first asked if was having any luck and got the standard "not yet" as an answer. The next question was if we could see his license, and we got another standard answer: "It's in the car." He went off to get it, leaving his rather pregnant bride sitting on the rock. She chatted pleasantly with us as he walked off to get his license. It's not normal to let someone walk away, but since we were in a boat and not able to easily beach it and his wife stayed behind, we didn't think he'd run; but as the conversation dragged on, and even Mrs. Sweetheart was looking rather anxious about things, I beached the boat and we got out. We were about to have her take us to their campsite when Mr. Sweetheart came down the hill, explaining that he couldn't find it.
This was in a day before there was any interstate violator agreement for fish and wildlife offenses so the only choices we had were to let him go with a warning or take him right to a judge for an immediate arraignment. We could have easily enough given him a warning and gone about our business--it would have been far simpler for us; but he started to give us a bit of a bad time. We already knew his name and date of birth as his wife had given us that; but when we asked for some identification he said he had nothing and he refused to give us his address, just telling us he was from New Jersey and didn't give a town. We finally got Pennsylvania Avenue out of him; but he still wouldn't go for a town. The more we asked, the worse he got. Finally it got the point where Jim and I didn't even need to discuss it. Out came the cuffs and into the boat he went. The wife, who had stayed pretty silent all during our conversation with him, started crying (understandably), then gave us the rest of the information and asked if her husband was going to jail. We told her that it would be up to the judge and that she could meet us and follow us to the court. The easiest meeting point for her to find was the State Police barracks, so we had her meet us there. We wrapped Mr. Sweetheart up in a life jacket, pushed the boat back into the water and headed for the dock for our cars.
While we were out on the water about ten minutes or so when all of a sudden Mr. Sweetheart's demeanor changed totally. He looked at us and said "I was a real a$$!ole, wasn't I?" We really had to agree with him on that.
We met his bride at the State Police barracks. She was inside on a bench crying. The trooper who just happened to be at the barracks told us that she'd walked in crying saying something about two guys in green uniforms in a boat had taken her husband away and he figured he'd just stay around until we showed up.
We met the local judge at court and he figured out pretty quickly that there had been an attitude problem behind the whole thing, so he really made the guy squirm in cuffs for a while while he discussed the options: a $250 fine or 15 days in jail. In the end, Mr. Sweetheart plead guilty and the judge imposed a reasonable penalty.
If this guy had only given us a couple straight answers in the first place, we could have seen our way clear to let him off with a warning. After all, he was spending a weekend away with his wife before their baby came. Somehow, I doubt that the rest of the week was the pleasant time they'd had planned.

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