News and Updates

PRESS RELEASE: Chatham Town Justice Imposes Sentence In Columbia County Poaching Case

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A criminal matter dating to late last year has resulted in Chatham Town Justice James Borgin-Forster imposing what is believed to be one of the most significant in state history stemming from criminal actions related to poaching trophy deer in Columbia County by three local men and the fines totaling more than $16,000.

On Saturday, December 16, Environmental Conservation Police Officer Jeff Cox was off-duty, when he received an anonymous tip that a poacher had illegally shot a buck after dark, the previous evening in northern Columbia County.

The dedicated officer, and his partner James Davey, who approximately one year earlier was gravely injured while responding to reports of shots fired after dark, went to the home of Hunter Ordway, 19, of Chatham and found him in the process of preparing several antlered deer for processing and display.

An investigation followed that had the officers visiting various area residences and conducting interviews with subjects who eventually implicated each other in a variety of illegal hunting activities which resulted in the poaching of several bucks. Jeremy Schemerhorn, 41, also of Chatham, and Ryan Bishop, 24, of Niverville were charged along with Ordway for these offenses.

Within four hours, of receiving the tip, ECOs Cox and Davey had seized eight deer. The deer were illegally taken and in a manner no legitimate sportsman would pursue, such as:

Stalking and shooting after dark with the aid of a light (a technique commonly referred to as jacklighting);

Baiting animals; and

Using heat sensing night vision eyewear.

The animals were all bucks and included one massive ten point trophy; three eight-pointers; one six- pointer; two 5-pointers; and one spike.

Hunter Ordway plead guilty on April 25th to six misdemeanor counts involving the illegal taking of deer (taking deer over the limit and hunting deer with the aid of an artificial light) and was sentenced on May 23 to $12,400 in fines and court costs. Schemerhorn pleaded guilty on March 5 to three misdemeanors involving the illegal take of deer (and in satisfaction of eight other violations including failure to tag, failure to report harvest, and possessing the license of another) and paid a total of $3,225 in fines and court surcharges. Bishop pleaded guilty on February 28 to four violations: hunting deer over bait, failure to tag a deer, failure to possess an archery license, and failure to wear backtag and paid $675 in fines and court surcharges.

It is important to note that incidents such as those described involving the defendants have attracted significant scrutiny and interest by members of the State Legislature in an effort to counter this disturbing and dangerous behavior, and punish those who engage in poaching.

Late last year, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (Washington County) and Senator Joseph Robach (Monroe County) was signed into law (Laws of 2017 - Chapter 408). The PBA of New York State advocated for the more severe penalties.

“I was proud to sponsor legislation imposing harsher penalties on those who take deer illegally. Illegal poaching is not only a public safety issue, but also takes a harmful toll on the recreational and economic benefit deer provide our state. Those who poach deer must be held accountable and increased penalties have been an important step in doing so.”

On a related note, prior to the conclusion of the 2018 legislative session in June, the Assembly and Senate are expected to once again support a measure providing for three-quarter disability benefits when injured in the line of duty. The measure, sponsored by Senator Golden and Assemblyman Abbate was vetoed by Governor Cuomo in 2017.

PBA Vice President Jason DeAngelis, a 15-year veteran of the Environmental Conservation Police. “Our police officers need to know that state leaders have their backs when confronting armed criminals, masquerading as sportsman. And, when injured, as James Davey was, that a viable retirement is available allowing for a complete recovery.”

“A first responder is a first responder is a first responder. We owe them our thanks. Knowing that they can do their jobs and New York will be there for their families is important. The Senate is committed to doing the right thing for those who protect us. Whether it be walking a beat in Brooklyn or covering a territory in Columbia County, public safety is public safety, and we owe it to those families to give them peace of mind,” said Senator Golden.

“The nearly fatal accident that occurred when DEC officer James Davey responded to an afterhours hunting incident in my district points to the need for both equitable benefits for injured conservation officers as well as greater deterrents for those who would hunt illegally. I have advocated for both, as a sponsor of legislation to increase penalties for illegal hunting (A.8459), and as co-sponsor of legislation to give ¾ disabilities benefits for injuries sustained during the course of duty, (A.7600). With the help and advocacy of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State we will continue to fight for these measures to protect and support our dedicated conservation officers,” said Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Columbia and Dutchess counties).

Environmental Conservation police have statewide jurisdiction and are responsible for vast areas while on duty. On a per capital basis each officer is responsible for more than 200 square miles and duties include enforcement of New York environmental conservation laws targeting the protection of our air as well as rivers, lakes and streams that threaten our water supplies. They also play key roles in various homeland security measures such as radiation detection and maritime interdiction and other emergency response roles.

Editor’s note: Environmental Conservation Police Officer James Davey suffered a devastating injury on November 29, 2016. He returned to active duty on November 27, 2017 – less than one year after the incident.