A commercial fisherman licensed in the state of Maryland has been accused of federal crimes. Allegedly, the 41-year-old from Tilghman Island, Maryland, was involved in fishing that violated the Lacey Act. Investigators were looking into felony crimes included harvesting striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay in an illegal manner. The man was recently arrested and was also charged with witness tampering and retaliation in association with the investigation.
According to the allegations made by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland and several other officials from varying justice and conservation agencies, the man was stealing striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay. He reportedly intimidated witnesses while investigators were looking into the illegal fishing. Officials from the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the Office of Law Enforcement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were informed of the supposed intimidation, in which the defendant allegedly had witnesses either modify their testimonies or choose not to testify altogether. The secretary for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said that doing so is a crime against the state’s citizens as well as its natural resources.
At least one threat of retaliation was reportedly made against a witness who authorities said the defendant thought was cooperating with the agencies involved in the investigation. The man is facing four counts of witness tampering and retaliation, each of which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Should he be convicted and punished with the maximum amount of prison time, he will be in jail until he is more than 120 years old. He was scheduled to have an initial hearing in Baltimore earlier this month. The case is interesting because it is being jointly prosecuted by two federal entities, even though the investigation involved state-level agencies as well. It is likely that the details of this case are complex and anyone in this man’s shoes would likely find the case difficult to navigate.
Defendants in criminal cases such as this one have the right to a fair trial, as well as the right to an appeal if there is an unfavorable verdict. Attorneys play a very important role in protecting the rights of defendants, not matter what the circumstances of the case may be.
Southern Maryland Online, “Commercial Fisherman Charged with Federal Witness Tampering” No author given, Sep. 20, 2013