Nine plead guilty in Virginia illegal fox pen sweep

National

RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WAVY) – The Virginia attorney general’s office says a two-year investigation has led to the closure of six fox pens, enclosures in which wild foxes are contained and chased by hunting dogs.

Attorney General Mark Herring’s office told The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement Wednesday that it has secured nine guilty pleas after a sweep targeting fox pens stocked with illegally purchased wildlife.

Six pens lost their licenses as a result. Herring spokeswoman Charlotte Gomer says those six are among the first to have their licenses pulled since the passage of a 2014 law intended to phase out the controversial practice of fox penning.

Supporters say the facilities are a safe way to train hunting dogs. Animal welfare groups and other opponents argue penning is a cruel practice.

The nine people who pleaded guilty received suspended sentences.

Those convicted are:

  • Sherry Lynn Hurt, 64, of Gloucester pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of purchasing wildlife in King and Queen County and was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years, a $2,500 fine, and no involvement with fox pens for ten years. 
  • Robert Verlander, 60, of Gloucester pled guilty to one felony count of purchasing wildlife in King and Queen County and was sentenced to five years with five years suspended for ten years, a $2,500 fine, and no involvement with fox pens for ten years. Additionally, his fox pen will no longer operate as a fox pen. 
  • Brandon Scott McGee, 33, of Powhatan pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of purchasing wildlife in Appomattox County and was given a suspended sentence, required to relinquish fox pen operator permit indefinitely to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), and is prohibited from any involvement in fox-penning for five years. Additionally, McGee was charged with one felony and one misdemeanor count of illegally purchasing wildlife in Powhatan County and was handed a suspended sentence, a $50 fine, and will forfeit the money used to purchase the wildlife to DGIF. 
  • Herman Burnley, 29, of Wingina, VA pled guilty to three separate misdemeanor charges of purchasing wildlife in Powhatan, Prince Edward and Buckingham Counties. Burnley was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years and is prohibited from any involvement with fox-penning for five years for each charge.  
  • Ricky Burnley, 33, of Wingina, VA pled guilty to two separate misdemeanor purchase of wildlife charges in Buckingham and Prince Edward Counties. For each charge, Burnley was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years, is prohibited from any involvement with fox-penning and had his trapping license revoked for ten years. 
  • Christopher Powell, 40, of Appomattox pled guilty to two separate misdemeanor charges of purchasing wildlife in Appomattox and Prince Edward Counties. For each of the charges, Powell was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years, no involvement with fox-penning for five years, had his trapping license revoked for 10 years and has to forfeit the money used to purchase wildlife to DGIF. 
  • Joseph Lewis, 84, of Dinwiddie pled guilty to a felony charge of purchasing wildlife in Brunswick County and was sentenced to five years with five years suspended for ten years and limited involvement with fox pens indefinitely. 
  • Christopher Harrison, 44, of Jarrett, VA pled guilty to one felony charge of purchasing wildlife in Prince Edward County and was sentenced to five years with five years suspended for seven years and no involvement with fox pens for seven years. Additionally, Harrison pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of operating an illegal fox pen and one felony count of conspiracy to purchase wildlife in Sussex County and was sentenced to five years with five years suspended for five years and no involvement with fox penning for seven years. 
  • John Tucker, 45, of Dinwiddie pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of purchasing wildlife in Dinwiddie County and was sentenced to 12 months with 12 months suspended for five years and no involvement with fox pens for five years. Additionally, his fox pen will no longer operate as a fox pen and he must relinquish his fox pen operator permit indefinitely. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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