By Benjamin Hulac
In between sobs and advice from their son’s defense attorney, Michael Slattery Jr.’s family and fiancée looked on helplessly as he pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn Tuesday to illegally trafficking rhinoceros horns.
Slattery, 23, was charged with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits the sale or trade of fish, wildlife or plant parts that have been illegally acquired or transported.
“The most you can get is five years,” federal Judge John Gleeson said to Slattery, who quivered, spoke in a shaky voice and broke down in tears several times during the proceeding. “It’s a serious crime, but you have to have some perspective. Your life’s not ending.”
According to the complaint, Slattery and unnamed “co-conspirators” traveled from London to Texas in the spring of 2010. There, they hired a local resident to serve as a “straw buyer” and illegally purchase a black rhinoceros head with horns (a mount) from a taxidermy auction house in Austin. As part of the purchase, the straw buyer received an “Endangered Species Bill of Sale” that expressly prohibited interstate sale or trade of the mount.
That prohibition didn’t stop Slattery and the others from altering the bill of sale and selling four black rhinoceros horns to an unidentified buyer at a tea house in Flushing, Queens for $50,000, according to the complaint, which does not state where they acquired the additional two horns. Slattery’s share of the sale was $12,500, the complaint said.
“We had two horns with paperwork [and two without\,” Slattery said in court. “I know I was doing wrong. I know I did wrong.”
During the proceeding, Slattery, represented by Lawrence Hochheiser, assured the judge he understood the rights and privileges he would lose by forgoing a trial.
“It’s way too important for any of this to pass you by,” Gleeson said. More....