United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division
MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is a magistrate appeal, appealing Magistrate Judge
Karen Hayes' (“Judge Hayes”) decision in
finding Defendant, Jonathan Hopkins (“Hopkins”)
guilty of violating Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations,
Section 20.21 (hereinafter “50 C.F.R. §
20.21”), which prohibits hunting waterfowl on a baited
field. After careful consideration of all parties'
submissions, and the law applicable before the Court, Judge
Hayes' decision is AFFIRMED.
October 29, 2016, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and
Fisheries Agent James Hagan (“Agent Hagan”)
received a complaint from an informant known to him. The
complainant reported that an individual had manipulated a
rice crop with the intent to duck hunt. The complainant
offered to drive Agent Hagan to the location. Agent Hagan met
with the complainant and was taken to the property adjacent
to the suspected baited or manipulated site.
November 3, 2016, Agent Hagan and Agent Hattaway returned to
the property that the complainant reported had been
manipulated. They walked the property and took photographs of
the manipulated crops. Agent Hagan discovered that the field
was roughly 60 to 80 acres and contained rice that had
matured. In addition, approximately three to four acres of
matured rice had been manipulated in a 360 degree circle
around a duck blind on the field. While Agents Hagan and
Hattaway were in the field, someone turned on a water pump
and began flooding the field.
November 9, 2016, Agents Hagan and Hattaway returned to the
field where they again found mature rice stalks that had been
manipulated in some manner solely in the area immediately
around the duck blind. The Agents took photographs of the
flooded field and areas around the duck blind from both
outside and inside the blind. They also obtained a sample of
November 19, 2016, opening day of duck season, agents,
including Agents Hagan and Hattaway, made their fourth trip
to the manipulated field. Hopkins' hunting party arrived
at approximately 6 a.m to the field. The Agents made contact
with the hunters in the blind at approximately 7:20 a.m. They
conducted a compliance check and provided Hopkins with his
rights per Miranda prior to informing him the field was
considered baited. While Agent Hagan was preparing his
equipment, Hopkins told Agent Hattaway that he was an
agriculture pilot and had flown brown millet onto the field
in August. He continued by stating that once the millet
matured, he disked it under rather than harvesting it.
Hopkins then stated that he had called Louisiana Department
of Wildlife and Fisheries Agent Bear Fletcher (“Agent
Fletcher”) because he had been “messing with the
rice” and wanted to make sure what he was doing was
then provided Agents Hagan and Hattaway with a handwritten
statement in which he admits he aerially applied millet to
the duck hole, then disked it in September or October.
Hopkins further wrote that the blind where he was found
hunting had been disked around in September, approximately
one month after he stated he aerially applied the brown
Hagan and Hattaway then issued Hopkins with a citation for
violating 50 C.F.R. § 20.21. After issuing the citation,
the Agents completed their investigation by taking
photographs of the area from both inside and outside of the
matter came before Judge Hayes for bench trial on December 5,
2017. After considering testimony from two witnesses, Agent
Hagan and Hopkins, and several pages of exhibits, Judge Hayes
found that Hopkins was guilty of 50 C.F.R. § 20.21 and
also found his testimony unreliable. In finding Hopkins'
testimony unreliable, Judge Hayes' reasoned that his
story changed on the use of the millet that was not included
in his written statement. Hopkins was sentenced to one year
of probation. As a condition of probation, Hopkins is not
permitted to hunt. Hopkins was also ordered to pay a fine of
appeals Judge Hayes' decision to this Court. This Court
has jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3402 and Fed.
R. Crim. P. 58(g) because there has been a final verdict of
conviction by the United States Magistrate Court for the
Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division.
appeal, Hopkins argues that the Government did not offer
sufficient evidence to meet its burden of proof as it relates
to certain exceptions of hunting waterfowl over baited land.
Specifically, Hopkins' contends that Judge Hayes erred in
denying his Motion for Acquittal following the
Government's case in chief and erred in finding Hopkins
guilty of 50 C.F.R. § 20.21.