A 71-year-old man is in custody following an investigation by the Department of Environmental Conservation that turned up a bizarre menagerie in his home. New York authorities say they conducted the “largest seizure of illegal reptiles” in the history of the state when they raided the man’s house. If the man is convicted, he could spend years in prison. It is unclear whether he has retained criminal defense counsel at this time.
This unusual story began with an investigation into the activities of the man after wildlife officials received a tip about a mass of animals being kept in a residence in Allegany, near Niagra Falls. When authorities went to the man’s home in August of last year, they say they found a cornucopia of reptiles, including nearly 300 turtles, 20 boxes of turtle eggs, three king cobras and several Gila monsters. Many of these reptiles are on the endangered species list, and the cobras and Gila monsters are among the most deadly animals on earth.
The man now faces charges including felony first-degree reckless endangerment, illegal sale of wildlife and multiple demeanor charges. He also faces 26 counts of illegally transporting and possessing reptiles, and almost 300 counts of illegal possession of wild animals as pets. If convicted on all of the charges filed against him, he could face over $100,000 in fines and up to 33 years in prison.
While it is important for the sake of public safety to regulate the sale and ownership of wild or endangered animals, it may still be possible for the man’s criminal defense team to build a compelling case in his defense. New York authorities are tasked with the burden of proof in this case, which must be backed up by substantial evidence that is both competent and relevant to the formal accusations. There are many ways this evidence can be interpreted, and the job of the defense team is to protect the man’s legal rights at every stage of the proceedings while pursuing the best result attainable.