By Liz Zemba
A Fayette County man is believed to be the first person in Pennsylvania to be convicted by a jury of poaching an American black bear.
Jurors found Joseph John Swaney, 39, of 263 Outcrop Road, Smithfield, guilty of unlawful killing and taking of big game following a one-day trial on Monday before Senior Judge Gerald R. Solomon.
“As far as we know, this is the first poaching case ever to go to jury trial,” said Travis Lau, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Swaney is to be sentenced by Solomon at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Gene Grimm, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted Swaney, said the case marks the first time he has seen a poaching charge go to trial. In most instances, defendants plead guilty, he said.
“Most hunters are so embarrassed by the fact they illegally harvested big game, they simply don't go to trial,” Grimm said.
Neither Swaney nor defense attorney Mary Campbell Spegar could be reached for comment on Friday.
In a criminal complaint, Wildlife Conservation Officer Brandon C. Bonin said Swaney told him he killed the bear at 3:50 p.m. on Sept. 7, 2012, when it wandered into his backyard garden. More....