By US~Observer Staff
EUGENE, OR – With the exception of his family and his country, there isn’t anything Scott Winegarden loves more than hunting. Being out in the wild with family and friends has been an integral part of his life since he was a child, and it was something he desperately missed while serving honorably in the Army Medical Corps during Desert Storm. Now it seems, however, Winegarden may not be able to hunt for the rest of his life in Washington and Oregon, at least – and may even be facing jail.
According to Winegarden, who has received a lifetime hunting suspension in the state of Washington and a subsequent reciprocal suspension in Oregon, his hunting privileges are gone now because several Washington State Fish & Wildlife officers have taken it upon themselves to dog him, seemingly, at every turn by falsifying testimony and colluding to find him in fault of any regulation. “It seems like they have some sort of, you know, vendetta,” Winegarden said in regard to F&W officers Brian Fulton, John Horn, Ralph Downes, and Jeff Lee. That, and due to a little known fact about hunting citations; RCW 77.15.700 – in the Washington game codes – wherein if you receive 3 tickets in any 10 year period, you will have both your hunting and fishing licenses suspended for a period of two years.
Winegarden did in fact receive 3 tickets between 1998 and 2005:
In 1998, there was an over-limit charge where, according to Winegarden, during a routine check by a game warden, Winegarden’s dog came out of the brush carrying a dead duck, which Winegarden maintains, “appeared to be 2-3 days old.” He paid the $50.00 fine.
In 2003, Winegarden and his two sons were hunting in Skagit County, WA, nearly 400 miles from their then home in Kennewick, WA. Winegarden reports that since he hadn’t hunted this area before he contacted agent Russ Cahill, from La Connor, WA office of WDFW, who told him where to hunt in Padilla Bay. After a day of hunting the Winegarden’s made their way back to the boat launch where two WDFW officers were waiting for them. Winegarden recalls the situation, “… officers Weyland and Valentine approached and checked our gear. The two agents proceeded to inform me that they had received a report via cell phone from someone out on the bay claiming we were hunting in an area off limits. I immediately asked them if they had actually seen any violations occur, upon which both officers stated ‘no,’ they had not witnessed any illegal activity. I then requested that they show me on their map the area that I was allegedly hunting in. They adamantly stated they had no maps of the area, but that it is marked. I informed the wardens that officer Russ Cahill had instructed me on where to hunt. Given these facts the officers did not issue a citation but took pictures of my boat, truck and the birds, and stated there might be an investigation. A month later my son and I received a citation via regular mail from the Skagit County Prosecutors office.” According to Winegarden he now knows he should have fought the charge, but at the time paid the fine which was reduced from $300.00 to $150.00 because, “the excessive distance that I was from Skagit County made it impossible to attend hearings, not to mention the cost.”
In 2005, Winegarden has his first run-in with WDFW agent Brian Fulton resulting in a “shooting from a boat under power” ticket. Winegarden maintains it was a ticket that he was forced to sign under the threat of being taken to jail. On this infraction Winegarden says, “…it infuriates me knowing I did not commit any violation and could just as easily have not acknowledged Officer Fulton’s request waving me in from 200 meters out in the river. My vehicle and boat launch were five miles upstream on the other side of the river. But I respected his request and complied, only to get interrogated and chastised for something I did not do. I vowed to fight this citation and began the process.” Winegarden reports that he was appointed a public defender in the case, who did nothing but instruct him to pay the fine of $167.00. Winegarden did.
Winegarden maintains all the citations were excessive and unwarranted, yet opted to forfeit (pay) the fine amount for each. He states that he did this due in part to the print on the reverse of the tickets that clearly states that paying a fine is not an admittance of guilt and he never knew about the clause in the regulations that state the 3-strike rule; as it reportedly appears nowhere in the waterfowl regulations.
Reportedly, 6 months after his 3rd violation, Winegarden received a notice of 2 year suspension. On this Winegarden stated, “… the subsequent WDFW suspension came on the heels of my forced decision to pay the fines instead of hiring or in hind sight that I even needed an attorney. I couldn’t afford my own legal counsel due to economic hardships and was issued a public defender on the Nov 2005 citation. The secretive operations of WDFW are not openly released to the public; therefore WDFW blatantly violates the Constitutional rights of citizens without their knowledge. Case in point: when the WDFW labels these citations as ‘convictions’ in spite of a trial, confrontation clause or other due process it, clearly violates the 5th and 6th amendments! To this day WDFW operates under severe scrutiny as there was, and still is, no disclosure notice set forth in the Washington Game regulations informing the public that a 3 citation/suspension rule exists. WDFW never presented prior notice or instruction to me that opting to pay a fine on a citation regardless would result in hunting or fishing suspension based upon their definition of ‘conviction’. A very inexorable decision affecting many people’s lives.”
Winegarden continued, “I immediately sent notice to the WDFW about this suspension and submitted an appeal for a hearing. I received notice via regular mail that July 13, 2006 would be the conference call hearing. During this call in July 2006 every attempt I made to question the validity of this suspension notice was flatly denied because the WDFW hearings panel … refused to allow my testimony regarding the history of the 3 prior citations. I instructed them these were not court ordered convictions but rather only minor citations that I opted to pay in lieu of expensive attorney fees. Each time I referred to the context of those minor citations the biased WDFW operatives would refute discussing them because they were considered convictions … and ultimately they denied my appeal. They had no intent on listening to facts.”
Winegarden went on to file a petition for reconsideration in August, 2006, under RCW 34.05.470, something he claims he has still never received any sort of disposition.
Having not heard, ultimately, what the final determination was regarding his suspension, Winegarden, who purchased a hunting license, kept doing what he loved. He claims to have been checked by two separate WDFW agents who found nothing wrong before running into WDFW’s Jon Horn in January of 2007, who cited Winegarden for hunting on a suspended license.
This began Winegarden’s real legal battles and, reportedly, true harassment by WDFW agents. Winegarden hired an attorney, who it has been said, stated that fighting this mess wouldn’t be a problem.
Winegarden, who maintains he did not hunt at all from the time he was initially cited for hunting on a suspended license, acted as a non-hunting guide for family and friends on various occasions. It was on October 21, 2007 during such an outing that Winegarden was cited by game warden officer Ralph Downes for hunting on a suspended license, and according to Winegarden, obstruction of justice and using another’s hunting license. The license issue reportedly arose when they found an old friend of Winegarden’s license on the boat. Winegarden was arrested and the officer confiscated Winegarden’s personal property, right down to Winegarden’s son’s shotgun.
On November 19, 2007 the trial on the first offense of hunting while suspended commenced. It lasted two days, and according to Winegarden was a complete disaster. He was found guilty and had to pay a $1,100.00 fine and forfeit his shotgun. He immediately set about appealing the case.
In December of 2007 the same agent, Ralph Downes, found Winegarden again while Winegarden guided one of his sons and an old college friend while they hunted. Stating that he had received a “report” of illegal hunting activity, Downes arrested Winegarden on multiple charges and confiscated all of Winegarden’s belongings, including his boat and all his gear. Winegarden would eventually be forced to buy back most of his belongings or face absolute forfeiture. Winegarden believes the “we have a report” statement WDFW often uses is their modus operandi, clearing the way for them to cite people at will.
Over the next several years Winegarden was thrown into the legal realm of attorneys allegedly not doing their jobs, instead representing the interests of the court rather than that of their client. He was ultimately found guilty at every turn and once the state finished with him, the federal government filed charges against him on the reported prompting of one WDFW officer – these charges are pending.
The Winegarden’s have since moved to Oregon following better jobs and he even found that he could hunt in the Beaver State. Recalling their move Winegarden stated, “My wife and I found different employment opportunities and decided to move out of Washington State. We needed a change, and a break from the bureaucracy was enlightening. We moved south to Eugene, Oregon, putting us closer to family and the U of O, for which my brother-in-law is on the football coaching staff. It was a great move that we were excited about, and during our first summer here in Oregon my wife and I began enjoying the outdoors again. We purchased our crabbing licenses and hit the coast. Life was great. In September when bird season started, I inquired with ODFW regarding any issues preventing me from purchasing a hunting license in Oregon. ODFW licensing division sent me an email authorizing my wife and I to purchase hunting licenses. So with that, my wife and I were set for the upcoming season. No problems at all occurred during the hunting season even after simple routine field checks by Oregon wildlife enforcement officers. To this day my wife and I have never been accused of violating any hunting laws nor have we received any citations in Oregon. The hunting season was going well when unexpectedly in January, 2009 I get a call from an operative of the Oregon state police telling me that they received a malevolent notice from Washington state fish and wildlife claiming I was suspended in that state and in accordance with the Compact Law I was going to be suspended in Oregon also. This was 8 months after I moved to Oregon … I was very confused and unaware of the existence of any Compact law; I was a legal resident of Oregon! I was paying state income tax, and was a registered voter. I had a valid hunting and fishing license in Oregon. Yet under the persistence of Washington State, Oregon was now going to suspend my hunting license for life also.”
Instead of continuing to fight by following the rules of the system, something Winegarden now knows to be a losing battle, he contacted the US~Observer. “I truly hope we can help Mr. Winegarden, and, at very least, see his hunting rights reinstated in Oregon,” said Ron Lee a US~Observer investigative journalist. “However, I would prefer, if our investigation finds conclusive evidence, to unwind everything completely, so Mr. Winegarden can enjoy the freedoms he deserves.”
Winegarden has his first hearing regarding the federal case on March 3.
Speaking on his experience with WDFW, Winegarden said, “I am not their first casualty and most likely will not be their last. These agencies blatantly usurp the system operating as a monarchy within an axis of power, whereby they dispatch disciples of evil both administratively and judicially, starting at the enforcement level, reducing peoples Constitutional rights to rubble. I am a military veteran just trying to make a life for my family here in Oregon, of which includes passing down what I learned as an outdoorsman from my father to my children and grandchildren. My rights to do this are being held hostage.”
Please contact the US~Observer at 541-474-7885 if you have any information regarding Scott Winegarden or WDFW agents Brian Fulton, John Horn, Ralph Downes, and/or Jeff Lee, or have witnessed any WDFW agents arresting anyone at the Coupeville, WA city boat launch. Also of interest is Robert Scott Stanley of Kennewick, WA.
Editor’s Note: If any hunters out there want to tell their story, please contact the US~Observer at firstname.lastname@example.org.