After 15 months in the Maury County Circuit Court system, the case against two local men for hunting turkeys illegally along the Duck River in Maury County ended his summer with guilty verdicts.
Officers of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) arrested Billy Joe Davidson of Lewisburg and Leonard Williams of Culleoka in March of 2008 for their role in heading up a poaching spree during a weekend designated specifically for youth turkey hunting. The original investigation began on March 26, 2008, as TWRA officers executed a search warrant for the house, premises and vehicles of Billy Joe Davidson. This search was based on a report from a concerned citizen about turkeys being shot from a boat that was under power on the Duck River. The report also stated that shots were fired well after legal shooting hours. The search of Davidson's property revealed 12 fresh turkey beards and 13 turkey breasts (along with other turkey meat), which TWRA officers seized. The investigation revealed that Davidson and Williams had used the youth-only turkey hunt weekend of March 22-23 to kill 12 turkeys illegally. The two adults were accompanied by two juveniles, ages 9 and 14.
The legal bag limit for the weekend was one turkey per young hunter. Allegedly the poachers killed nine turkeys on Sunday alone as they traveled up and down the river in Maury County by means of a 16-foot flat bottom boat, shooting some turkeys that had already roosted on tree limbs as night set in, or using a spotlight to locate other birds along the river bank. A sentencing hearing was held on June 5, 2009, before Maury County Circuit Court Judge Jim Hamilton. Both Davidson and Williams pled guilty to nine separate counts and were sentenced on each count. The charges were: contributing to the delinquency of a minor; hunting from a motorized craft; violation of legal shooting hours; and six counts of hunting turkey in a closed season. The defendants were sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in the Maury County Jail. However, Judge Hamilton suspended the jail term for each man and placed both on supervised probation for the full length of the 11 months and 29 days. In addition, Davidson and Williams were each ordered to pay $3,246 in fines and court costs and each lost their Tennessee hunting privileges for one year, effective August 1, 2009. A 16-foot flat bottom boat, 25 horsepower Mercury motor, and trailer belonging to Davidson were declared property of TWRA. A 12-gauge shotgun belonging to Williams was also declared contraband. The two juveniles were also charged and had their cases settled in Maury County Juvenile Court. The 9-year-old was ordered to take Tennessee's Hunter Education course and to forfeit a shotgun. The 14-year-old was ordered to retake the Hunter Education course, had his hunting privileges revoked for one year, was given 20 hours of community service, and also made to forfeit a shotgun to the state.
Jeff Skelton, a law enforcement assistant supervisor with TWRA said, "This was a landmark case for this area and the many officers that worked it did an outstanding job of collecting evidence and prosecuting the case. TWRA's Wildlife Forensic Lab is also to be commended for using cutting edge technology to identify evidence.
"However, our officers are most grateful to the honest sportsmen who provided us with information that led to an arrest and conviction, and pleased that those sportsmen were willing to stick with us through 15 months of court proceedings. We hope this judgment serves as a deterrent for wildlife crime in the Maury County area."