Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Grundy County, Illinois, Circuit No. 12-CM-958. Honorable Robert C. Marsaglia, Judge, Presiding.
Defendant's conviction for the wilful obstruction or interference with the lawful taking of wild animals under section 2(a) of the Hunter and Fishermen Interference Prohibition Act was reversed, since defendant's conduct of making noises and riding an all-terrain vehicle on land where he lived with his sons and his mother, the owner, fell within the statutory exemption applicable to " landowners, tenants, or lease holders exercising their legal rights to the enjoyment of land, including, but not limited to, farming and restricting trespass," regardless of the fact that the conduct, as in defendant's case, was intended to interfere with lawful hunting on neighboring property, especially when defendant remained on his mother's property and did not perform any illegal acts; furthermore, the legislative debates showed that the Act was intended to apply to protesters trespassing at game preserves, clubs or public hunting grounds, not people legally using their own property.
Christopher S. Carroll, of Aurora, for appellant.
Jason Helland, State's Attorney, of Morris (Laura E. DeMichael, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Lytton and Justice Holdridge concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Defendant, Adam A. Holm, was charged with wilful obstruction or interference with the lawful taking of wild animals under section 2(a) of the Hunter and Fishermen Interference Prohibition Act (Act) (720 ILCS 125/2(a) (West 2010)). The charge followed an incident that occurred on Adam's mother's property, where Adam resided. Adam defended pro se at a jury trial and was found guilty. The court imposed a sentence of probation and a suspended term of incarceration. Adam appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he violated the statute and therefore committed a crime. We reverse.
[¶3] At trial, witness testimony established the following undisputed facts. Alexander Kerr's in-laws, the Mottls, lived on an approximately 130-acre parcel of land at 3050 Winterbottom Road in rural Morris, Illinois. The property to the south of the Mottls', at 3000 Winterbottom Road, was owned by Adam's mother, Loretta Holm. She, Adam, and her grandsons, Daniel and Nick, all resided on her property. Winterbottom Road ran north-south, and the property line shared by the two properties ran east-west, perpendicular to the road. Each property extended on both sides of Winterbottom Road. Both properties were wooded on the east side of the road and comprised of cornfields on the west side. Each property had a dwelling located approximately 300 yards east of the road. On each property, a driveway ran east from Winterbottom Road to the respective dwelling. Both driveways were close to the shared property line.
[¶4] Kerr had hunted on the Mottls' property for the previous 10 years. He had erected five tree stands and two ground blinds in the wooded area of the property. The wooded area also had multiple " fire lanes" --long, narrow stretches of land where the trees had been removed to help contain potential forest fires. The lanes ran north from the Mottls' driveway and allowed Kerr easy access on foot from the driveway to the tree stands and ground blinds.
[¶5] On the afternoon of December 2, 2012, Kerr was hunting on the Mottls' land with conservation officer Dave Wollgast. Wollgast was present in response to neighbors' reports that Adam had been disrupting hunts in the area. Kerr and Wollgast wore blaze orange hats and vests and carried shotguns.
[¶6] Kerr and Wollgast walked westbound on the Mottl driveway from the Mottl home toward the fire lanes. They saw Adam watching them from the Holm property. As the hunters reached the fire lanes, Adam's son Daniel approached the property line from the south and began whistling and kicking a can along the ground. At some point, he put a rock in the can and shook it. When Kerr ...