Jeremiah Ruhl, 46, of Colchester recently was sentenced to twelve months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William K. Sessions III, according to court records. Ruhl had previously pled guilty to the unlawful killing of a crow and woodcock without a license and unlawful possession of a turkey vulture without a permit.
All three of these birds are “migratory birds” and protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Ruhl also pled guilty to unlawfully possessing a Stevens .410 shotgun after previously having been convicted of a felony. Judge Sessions also ordered Ruhl to serve two years on federal supervised release after he is released from prison.
Ruhl faced a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 for the possession of a firearm-by-a-felon violation. For the Migratory Bird Treaty Act violations, Ruhl faced a maximum of six months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for each of the three counts.
The Government argued in its sentencing memorandum that a jail sentence was appropriate given the “aggravating factors” in the case, in particular “the defendant’s long history of violating Vermont’s game laws, which stands in stark contrast to his professed affection for Vermont’s wildlife.”
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan Ophardt stated, “This case represents a successful joint investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, state game wardens, and federal wildlife agents to vigorously investigate and prosecute federal wildlife crimes that undermine state and federal efforts to protect the precious natural resources of our beautiful State.”
Criminal enforcement of the MBTA has differed among recent presidential administrations, according the the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
“On October 4, 2021, the Service published a final rule revoking the January 7, 2021, regulation that limited the scope of the MBTA. With this final and formal revocation of the January 7 rule, the Service returns to implementing the MBTA as prohibiting incidental take and applying enforcement discretion, consistent with judicial precedent and long-standing agency practice prior to 2017. This final rule goes into effect on December 3, 2021.”