Breaking News Emails
A Missouri man was sentenced to watch the movie "Bambi" once a month during one year behind bars for his part in the illegal killing of hundreds of deer, authorities said Monday.
David Berry Jr., 29, was handed the unusual sentence as part of what Missouri regulators called one of the biggest poaching cases in state history.
Berry was among a group, which included his brothers and father, who illegally killed hundreds of deer over at least three years, authorities said. Arrests in the probe began in 2016.
The men were found to have broken a laundry list of hunting laws, including hunting out of season and using illegal weapons, such as lights that temporarily blind deer at night so they stand still for an easy kill. They also would cruise in their vehicles and kill deer from the roadsides, also in violation of state hunting laws, officials said.
They would sometimes simply cut off the heads of their kills, leaving the rest of the deer carcass to rot in fields across Lawrence County, Missouri, authorities said.
"This was not hunting, this was poaching," Missouri Department of Conservation Protection Division Chief Randy Doman told NBC News on Monday. "We're talking in the hundreds of illegally killed deer over at least three years."
Lawrence County Prosecutor Don Trotter said the defendants have boasted to friends that they had killed as many as 1,200 deer over the years. Investigators were able to confirm only a fraction of that boast, based on witnesses, pictures taken by the poachers themselves and the deer heads and antlers they collected.
Berry pleaded guilty to taking wildlife illegally and was sentenced earlier this month to a year in Lawrence County jail.
County Judge Robert E. Greene also ordered that while he sits in jail, he repeatedly watch a classic 1942 animated movie about a baby deer named Bambi whose mother is shot and killed by hunters.
"At least one time per month, that Defendant is to view the Walt Disney movie Bambi, with the first viewing being on or before December 23, 2018, and at least such viewing each month thereafter during the Defendants incarceration in the Lawrence County Jail," Greene ordered.
Berry's lawyer, Stacie Bilyeu, called the sentence "bizarre" and said there was no hint that the "Bambi" punishment was coming during the sentencing hearing.
"Everybody [in court] fell silent and a eyes fell down to the floor; it was pretty shocking," Bilyeu said.
Berry's stint in the Lawrence County jail includes a 120-day sentence he received in another county for a felony firearms probation violation.
The state's conservation protection chief, Doman, said he had never seen a punishment like the movie-watching requirement for Berry.
"They were so addicted to the kill, that they had showed such total disregard for the rules of chase," Doman said. "They were stealing from the wildlife resources of the citizens of the state of Missouri, and this is the judge's way of putting some perspective."
Berry and his father, David Berry Sr. lost their hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life, officials said. Berry Jr.'s two brothers, Eric and Kyle, and another man in the group lost their privileges for periods ranging from five to 18 years.
The group of poachers have also paid $51,000 in combined fines, officials said.
Jailers plan to show "Bambi" on a TV and DVD player to Berry Jr. inside a jail meeting room that is used for inmates to meet with their lawyers, according to Trotter.
The prosecutor said his office has received many calls from members of the public pledging to mail the jail a DVD of "Bambi."
"We're going to have multiple copies of `Bambi,' " Trotter said.