St. Michaels man gets probation, must pay restitution in rockfish poaching scheme
|Illegally netted Striped Bass|
A St. Michaels fisherman received probation Friday for helping illegally harvest tens of thousands of pounds of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay, but must pay $40,000 in fines and restitution for what the sentencing judge called an "egregious" offense.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett told Lawrence Daniel Murphy he seriously considered jailing him, but went along with the prosecution's recommendation for probation because of Murphy's relatively minor role in a fish poaching conspiracy involving three other Eastern Shore watermen.
However, Bennett said he wanted to hit Murphy in the wallet to send a message to other watermen that illegal fishing is a "very, very serious matter." Striped bass, also known as rockfish, are Maryland's state fish.
The judge ordered Murphy to pay a $10,000 fine, plus $30,000 in restitution to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for the fish he'd helped illegally harvest.
He was just the hired help, but apparently he must have known what was going on. There's one more important sentence to be meted out, that of Michael Hayden, accused of attempting to intimidate witness:
Hayden's sentencing has been postponed until February, as the judge weighs whether to consider allegations Hayden attempted to intimidate the other fishermen not to cooperate with investigators.
I get the feeling that Judge Bennett's full wrath will come down on Mr. Hayden. It's one thing to kill some fish, but when you start threatening the court system, the judges get irate.
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