A 20-year-old Louisiana man has been sentenced to 30 days in prison and a year on supervised release for possessing a bald eagle feather, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Daniel Glenn Smith of Homer was sentenced Tuesday in Shreveport for violating a law that says only federally recognized Native American tribes may possess any part of a bald or golden eagle, U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown said in a news release.
This is the same law that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unknowingly broke when he picked up an eagle feather from a lake and unwittingly confessed to when he told about the incident in 2018.
However, Smith did more. A statement signed when he pleaded guilty in October 2021 says he admitted killing an eagle, taking one feather from it and keeping the feather in his car.
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“The American bald eagle is a symbol of our American freedom. ... This defendant did not take this symbol seriously, nor the laws that prohibit anyone from killing or possessing even a feather of a bald eagle," Brown said.
Magistrate Judge Mark Hornsby could have sentenced Smith to a year in prison and imposed a $5,000 fine, according to the plea agreement. The maximum fine for a first offense is $100,000, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries began its investigation after learning that Smith had been photographed with a dead bald eagle, Brown’s news release said. A search of Smith’s vehicle turned up the feather.
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Smith had previously been placed on probation and ordered not to possess a firearm for one year, as a result of hunting violations involving other wildlife, Brown said.
In 2017, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act was among laws invoked when authorities broke up what a federal prosecutor in South Dakota called ″a chop shop for eagles.” That investigation brought 31 indictments; 17 people and two pawn shops were sentenced in 2018.