Robert Gabriel residing in the township of Highland, Sullivan County, NY was ticketed by a NY DEC Conservation Officer for feeding deer. Robert appeared on February 8, 2010 for a bench trial in the Town of Highland Justice Court with the Honorable Judge Kathryn Sweeney presiding. Robert pleaded not guilty. He told the judge he was feeding other wildlife, not deer, to prevent them from starvation. And he could not help it if deer eat the same food he feeds other wildlife.
Judge Sweeney stated, "You are not allowed to feed deer" and she also said an old woman putting bird feed into a feeder would get a ticket as well if deer were to feed upon it. Then Judge Kathryn Sweeney pronounced a sentence of "Guilty" for feeding white-tailed deer and fined Mr. Gabriel.
Mr. Gabriel with his attorney Cynthia Dolan Esq. filed an appeal to the Appellate Court where County Judge the Honorable Frank J. LaBuda presided. Mr. Gabriel's appeal challenges the constitutionality of the regulation under which he was found guilty on the ground that it is so vague as to violate the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, and that it is also overbroad and violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
After almost three years on September 5, 2012, County Judge the Honorable Frank J. LaBuda ruled that Robert Gabriel's appeal is granted because his rights were deemed unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution right to free expression as overbroad. And it is further ordered that the decision of the Town of Highland Justice Court is reversed and the simplified information is dismissed with prejudice.
This is a great victory for Robert Gabriel and all sportsmen especially here in Sullivan County. This ruling only has jurisdiction in Sullivan County, NY. All sportsmen and animal lovers must compliment Judge LaBuda on his fair and correct decision. This decision will certainly help during critical winters to prevent the starvation of animals and birds.
The Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs of Sullivan County (the largest Sportsmen's Federation in NY State) was very supportive of Robert Gabriel's appeal on deer feeding. The Federation advises all who intend to feed deer, not to start until deer hunting seasons are over. This is to prevent DEC Conservation Officers discretion to ticket one because they could determine and ticket you for "baiting deer." Most will wait till the month of January to see how severe the winter will be and once you start feeding deer, you should continue to feed through February and March.
Thanks Judge LaBuda!