Editor's Note: This post was originally published in December, 2018.
A Missouri judge handed down an absolutely bizarre punishment for a poacher that wildlife officials say is one of the worst in the state's history.
The Springfield News-Leader reported that David Berry, Jr. pleaded guilty to illegal take of wildlife in Lawrence County Associate Court in October and received a year in jail from Lawrence County Judge Robert George. Then the judge decided to add a little something extra to Berry's jail sentence: he was required to watch the Walt Disney movie Bambi at least once a month during his time in jail.
The news of the unusual sentence spread like wildlife across the internet, with some believing it to be poetic justice. Some felt he should have to watch it on a 24-hour loop, while others chimed in saying it was cruel and unusual. What would this scene, over and over again, do to the mind of a poacher?
Not surprisingly, this case wasn't Berry, Jr.'s first brush with the law. The poacher also got an additional 120 days in jail after pleading guilty in Barton County Circuit Court to violating felony firearms probation.
The unusual jail sentence aside, Missouri officials say three other members of Berry's family were involved in this case. The group allegedly poached hundreds of bucks at night, taking the heads and leaving the rest to rot.
"It is unknown how many deer the main group of suspects has taken illegally over the past several years," Lawrence County Conservation Agent Andy Barnes said. "It would be safe to say that several hundred deer were taken illegally."
David Berry, Jr. and Eric Berry were both convicted of hand fishing in 2016. Eric was then busted in 2017 for spotlighting deer in Lawrence County while waiting his court appearance. Missouri Department of Conservation Division Chief Rand Doman said the group was motivated purely by "the thrill of the kill itself." Authorities credit Missouri's anti-poaching network: Operation Game Thief, with giving some vital leads in the case. Both David Berry, Jr. and Sr. have been stripped of their hunting privileges for life. Eric Berry lost his for the next 18 years and Kyle Berry lost his for eight. In all, Missouri officials charged 14 people for over 230 charges in 11 different counties.
The group's crimes weren't limited to just Missouri. The cooperative investigation involves multiple law enforcement agencies. It is believed the crimes of these poachers spanned state lines to Kansas and Nebraska and country lines to Canada.
This case and punishment is one of the most unusual we've heard of here since a Texas judge sentenced a convicted poacher to spend every weekend of hunting season in jail. It seems judges are certainly becoming more creative when trying to make a point about wildlife crime!