Hunter files petition to Supreme Court!
Indian River resident John Ingersoll has filed a petition for Application for Leave to Appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court in Pro Per (representing himself). This decision could affect all sportsmen and women throughout the state of Michigan. Ingersoll's opinion is a hunter should be able to hunt legally without harassment and being accused of criminal activity. We must stand-up for our god given right to hunt and fish in our state.
This lawsuit arose because of Defendants' false and defamatory statements that turned many members of the community against the Ingersoll, seriously damaging his reputation. The Defendants wrote letters-to-the-editor of local newspapers that accused Ingersoll, a deer hunter, of killing an 8-point albino buck that was a neighborhood pet that the Defendants had been feeding for four years. Ingersoll's buck was a 2½ year-old piebald, not an albino, and was taken several miles from Defendants' neighborhood. Ingersoll demanded retractions of Defendants' false statement but they refused.
On December 19, 2004, Ingersoll was legally deer hunting on private land in Emmet County, Michigan. It is undisputed that he had permission to hunt the property, was properly licensed, was wearing the required amount of hunter orange, was using the proper firearm, was hunting during the legal hours, and was using legally-prescribed hunting methods.
Late in the afternoon he saw a buck emerge from the woods about 200 yards away. The buck appeared to have an 8-point rack, but its coat was white, not the normal brownish coloration of whitetail deer. He studied the deer through his binoculars but did not observe pink eyes which are a distinguishing characteristic of an albino. He did observe distinct patches of dark hair on its head and hocks against the white coat which distinguished the deer as a piebald.
At the time this action was filed, The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has enacted a clear and simple hunting regulation regarding the taking of albino deer. (However, Ingersoll's situation reversed the law when the Natural Resources Commission repealed the provision on the DNR Order 3.100(2), effective June 6, 2008 and it is therefore no longer unlawful to hunt albino deer in Michigan):
MDNR ORDER 3.100 (2) It shall be unlawful for a person to take or possess, at any time, an albino deer, being a deer with all white or colorless hair, or a deer with a coat of all white or colorless hair similar to an albino deer. Piebald, or partially white deer, may be taken under the provisions of this order.
Knowing that the deer was legal quarry he killed the buck, tagged it and took it home. Realizing the large amount of white hair may present a legal question, on December 21, 2004 Ingersoll took the buck to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Field Office in Indian River. Two DNR wildlife biologists, a wildlife technician and a conservation officer thoroughly inspected and photographed the deer. They concluded that the deer was not an albino or white deer; it was a piebald buck that was legal to take.
Ingersoll took the deer to several locations where deer hunters congregated where additional photographs were taken, newspapers published photographs of the Ingersoll and his buck, along with several letters-to-the-editor that accused the Ingersoll of shooting the "neighborhood's pet Albino deer.
Neighbors upset by killing of "albino" deer
Who killed our friend for a trophy? Please be advised that on Monday, December 20, 2004, someone from Indian River shot and killed the neighborhood's pet "Albino" deer. We have been lovingly feeding this pretty animal for four years. The DNR said it was a legal kill but having been as close as 10 feet from this pet deer one of us was unable to see any brown markings. The stain observed by DNR was quite possibly a discharge from hind quarters and the small stain on forehead could be from tree rubbing. The neighbors and surrounding friends are very, very upset over the killing for a "trophy." Saddened and broken hearted.............
Deer should have been protected
I would like to know what the law is, or how the DNR stands with killing an albino deer. Webster's dictionary defines albino as: a person, animal, or plant lacking normal coloration. I was told the white buck that lived in the Burt Lake area was shot by a hunter and killed. This news has saddened myself and others. If the law doesn't protect these animals, who will? I know the people in the area tried even hunters wouldn't shoot him if he came into their bait pile. I come from a family of hunters, but some living beautiful animals should be protected...........
Sad to hear white deer was killed
After receiving the sad news on Christmas eve about someone shooting the white deer near Alanson, I felt I needed to let people know how sad it really is. As a relative of people who watched this young buck grow and blossom since birth and then to watch them be so broken hearted over his death, I feel the people who live in Northern Michigan and appreciate its miracles and beauty should know that a young man looking for a "trophy" shot and killed the most beautiful sight I have ever seen! It's just so sad...........
These statements triggered an avalanche of negative public sentiment against Ingersoll , convincing them that Ingersoll: 1) committed an illegal act by killing an albino deer, and 2) committed an immoral, reprehensible, repugnant act by killing a deer that was the "neighborhood's pet." Ingersoll attempted to correct the misconception explaining the true facts, showing photographs of his deer, and even having the deer mounted so he could display it to prove he did not shoot the "neighborhood's pet albino deer." His attempts to clarify the facts did not correct the impact of the untrue statements about Ingersoll in the letters-to-the-editor.
Then, on January 18, 2005, a letter-to-the-editor from another Defendant appeared in the newspaper that incited further community outrage:
Beautiful deer slain
To say that your article and the picture of the Albino deer that was killed near Alanson saddened us would not be the correct choice of words. I also believe that the referring to Mr. Ingersoll as a hunter would not be correct. I am but one of the many residents of the area who have enjoyed viewing this deer over the past years. I have both movies and pictures of this beautiful animal.
Reports are that the deer had a small brown spot near its back foot. I would like to know how Mr. Ingersoll could see such a spot with the amount of snow that we had on the ground on the day that he killed this animal. This deer has been cared for by the residents of this area for years and was almost as tame as our house pets.
Many of us wonder how Mr. Ingersoll dispatched the animal: did he use his pocketknife or just a stick that he picked up off the ground? I have been a deer hunter for more than 50 years and have never needed a deer bad enough to end the life of such a beautiful animal. I am very happy to say that I know of no real hunter who feels any different than I.
When the community read Defendant's assertion that "This deer has been cared for by the residents of this area for years and was almost as tame as our house pets" the reputation and image of Ingersoll was further degraded. People made disparaging and hostile remarks to Ingersoll and his family when they were in restaurants and other public places and some even threatened to come to Plaintiff's house and shoot his dogs. Students and teachers who held Ingersoll in low esteem because of the letters to the newspapers harassed Ingersoll's teenage daughter at school, and Ingersoll's wife received a hostile telephone call from a Defendant, one of the authors of a defamatory letter to the editor, resulting in a complaint to the Tuscarora Township Police Department.
On January 7, 2005, DNR Conservation Officer Michael Feagan wrote an Incident Report, reviewed by his supervisor DNR Sgt. Greg Drogowski, where he reported that DNR wildlife experts agreed that Ingersoll's deer was not an albino.
The deer was examined at the Indian River Field Office by retired Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Doug Whitcome, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Technician Greg Whittaker, and me. There was obvious brown coloring on the head of the deer and on the inside of both rear hocks. It was determined by all involved that the deer met the legal requirements to be considered a piebald.
Photos of the brown coloration on the deer were taken and e-mailed to Lieutenant Gaither who presented them to wildlife biologist at the Gaylord Operations Office. They confirmed from the photos that the deer was a piebald.
Because some of the Defendants accused the Ingersoll of fraudulently coloring the hair of his piebald buck, the DNR initiated a criminal investigation of the legality of the deer.
A He commented that Mrs. Defendant and Mr. -- Mrs. Defendant - not Mister -- were at his place of business, and he told me they were there for approximately three to five hours, and they came with an 18-inch stack of Polaroid pictures of a deer since birth, and ranting and raved that -- this was in his words -- and stayed there. And then the DNR officer stopped by. He didn't say -- he didn't give me a name of which one. And he commented how Mrs. Defendant and Mrs. Defendant chewed the DNR officer out, and told him they weren't doing their job, and the deer was illegal, and so on and so forth, and that he needed to do his job. And apparently he went back and somebody cut some holes in the hide.
DNR Sgt. Greg Drogowski testified in his deposition that this was a criminal investigation.
Q Now, is there any reason why you didn't contact
Mr. Ingersoll to ask if you could --
Q -- take samples?
Q And why not?
A Because in criminal investigations, if I would have done
that, it's a possibility the deer hide would disappear
before a sample could be taken.
DNR Pathologist Thomas Cooley received the hair samples at the DNR's Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Lansing where he made the following determination:
The eyes were pigmented (which by definition eliminates this as being an albino animal), but there was a question regarding the staining of the fur in the two areas as to whether they were stained naturally or by the hunter through painting or staining the areas with some type of petroleum product.
Pathologist Cooley then sent the hair samples to the Michigan State University OCPAH for further testing by toxicologist Wilson K. Rumbeiha who concluded:
HISTORY: The animal was reportedly seen earlier in the summer and fall with a pure white coat. When harvested, the animal had brown on the head and torsal area. Because albino deer are protected by law, there is a question as to whether or not the stain on the fur was due to the hunter painting or staining the hair with some type of petroleum product.
TEST COMMENT: Skin and hair tested negative for petroleum hydrocarbons. We did not find any manmade chemicals on the skin.
Ingersoll had submitted the head of his buck to the DNR for aging and testing for bovine tuberculosis. DNR Wildlife Veterinarian Stephen M. Schmitt mailed the results, which stated:
Your deer, TB Tag #258627, submitted on 12/28/04 was aged at the Rose Lake Lab as a 2.5 year old male. No evidence of tuberculosis was found in this deer.
On May 15, 2005, Ingersoll sent certified letters to Defendants demanding that each of them retract their false assertions that led the public to believe that Ingersoll killed their "neighborhood's pet albino deer," which, if true, constituted a criminal act.
After allowing seven months to pass without seeing a retraction or receiving a response from any of the Defendants, Ingersoll filed a defamation lawsuit on December 29, 2005 against the seven individuals who wrote defamatory letters-to-the-editor. The fact that they asserted, or imputed that the Plaintiff committed a crime constitutes defamation per se.
MCL 600.2911 (1) Words imputing a lack of chastity to any female or male are actionable in themselves and subject the person who uttered or published them to a civil action for the slander in the same manner as the uttering or publishing of words imputing the commission of a criminal offense.
In response to the lawsuit, Defendants hired four attorneys. The four opposing attorneys immediately launched a rigorous barrage of discovery requests, and Ingersoll provided extensive and detailed answers, including a list of some 60 witnesses, including their addresses and descriptions of the subjects upon which they may be called to testify. Ingersoll provided exhibits supporting his contention that the deer he took was not the four-year old albino that the Defendants had been feeding in their backyards. This issue has been in contentious dispute from the outset, the subject of numerous depositions and resulting in the submission of an extensive array of documents, photographs and videos.
The case was dismissed form Cheboygan Circuit Court on November 20, 2006, a final order was filed with the Court on December 4, 2006.
On March 16, 2007 Ingersoll / Appellant filed a Claim of Appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals along with all the proper documents. On July 18, 2007, Fred Trost, Ingersoll / Appellants Attorney, suddenly died. Ingersoll retained new council and a Notice of Appearance was filed on October 31, 2007.
On September 9, 2008 Oral Arguments were heard at the Michigan Court of Appeals.
It is from the Court of Appeals on September 16, 2008 affirming the granting of summary disposition to Defendant's Renewed Motion for Summary Disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and (10), which the Court granted as relief to all Defendants on all issues, that this appeal is taken.
On October 28, 2008 Ingersoll filed an Application for Leave to Appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, Brief in support of Application, Notice of Hearing and Proof of Service.
Several sporting magazines and articles have appeared throughout the State, regarding this situation and the repeal of the provision on the DNR Order 3.100(2.
Traverse City Record Eagle
"INDIAN RIVER -- John Ingersoll had no idea that shooting a rare "piebald" deer would lead to years of battles with state wildlife officials and some of his neighbors.
The Indian River resident's case is the catalyst for a proposed change in Michigan hunting laws that would remove protection for albino and other genetically mutated all-white deer.
The Natural Resources Commission will consider the proposal Thursday in Lansing.
The state's about-face is good policy, Ingersoll believes, but it doesn't go far enough, and doesn't account for the thousands of dollars he lost in a lawsuit he hoped would clear his name.
"I feel the reason they changed the law is to throw me a bone and hope that I'll go away," he said.
In December 2004, Ingersoll shot a predominantly white deer while hunting in Emmet County and took it to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources field office in Indian River.
His eight-point buck had brown eyes and patches of brown fur, by definition a piebald deer, not an albino or all-white deer, a fact later confirmed by DNR scientists.
Not everyone would kill a white deer, Ingersoll acknowledged, but he believed he had the legal right to do so and he wanted the trophy. A full body mount of the animal resides at an in-law's house.
News of Ingersoll's kill quickly spread, and the loss of the unusual creature distressed some local folks. Some wrote letters to newspapers to complain about him killing an albino deer.
And in Michigan it's a crime to kill an albino deer -- unless state wildlife officials agree to the law change this week.
The allegations that he'd killed a protected deer prompted Ingersoll to file a defamation lawsuit in Cheboygan County against seven area residents who publicly made that accusation.
Two DNR officials -- retired Lt. Jeff Gaither and Sgt. Greg Drogowski -- testified in lawsuit depositions that Ingersoll killed an albino, after all.
Ingersoll's lawsuit then was thrown out of court, and he was ordered to pay the defendants' legal costs. He since spent thousands more trying to prove he didn't commit a crime.
Ingersoll wants DNR officials charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and violating his constitutional rights, he said.
Drogowski said there's a biological explanation for the situation and why the state didn't charge Ingersoll with a crime for killing a protected albino deer.
The deer was albino at one point, proven by earlier photographs that showed the deer with the same antler configuration. During the rut, the animal stained portions of its fur brown by rubbing trees and urinating on its legs, making it piebald when Ingersoll shot it, Drogowski said.
"We believe that was an albino or an all-white deer, but because it was stained brown, it made it legal for him to shoot," he said.
Ingersoll is appealing the dismissal of his defamation lawsuit, said his Traverse City attorney, Jonathan Moothart."
The Michigan DNR should be proud that they employ talented individuals such as Sgt. Greg Drogowski who along with his cronies convinced a Cheboygan County Circuit Court Judge and the Michigan Court of Appeals of their fictional fairy tails is nothing short of miracle. Drogowski stated in the Traverse City Record Eagle on June 4, 2008 "The deer was albino at one point" then after waving his magic wand, it became a "piebald when Ingersoll shot it"
Many things changed throughout the proceedings of this situation. On May 27, 2008 Ingersoll personally sent a letter to Governor Jennifer Granholm stating "I have tried my best to resolve this issue on my own through the proper channels. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director reviewed my situation. I don't feel this was proper, due to the fact that she has no Law Enforcement background. She may have reviewed this information with Acting Chief of Law Enforcement Rodney Stokes, appointed after Alan Marble retired because the Copeland-Morgan issue. Once again Rodney Stokes has no Law Enforcement background. The Michigan DNR does not have an Internal Affairs department either. Basically they are unregulated, which when a citizen has a legitimate complaint, they have now way to obtain an investigation under the guidelines of this agency.
The DNR Organizational Chart lists you Governor Granholm as the head of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Please do not make other citizens go through what myself and my family has endured for several years of our lives. This situation has been brought before Director Humphries only after your office forced her to do so! Does Michigan have any accountability in this agency?"
Ten days later on June 2, 2008 The Michigan DNR announced that Gary Hagler of Flint has been named the Chief of the department's Law Enforcement Division. Hagler most recently served as the chief of police of the Flint Police Department, where he was a 22-year veteran of the force. Hagler will start as the DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief today.
DNR Retired Lt. Jeffery Gaither, Sgt. Greg Drogowski and Officer Michael Feagan were investigated by the State of Michigan Attorney Generals Criminal Division, the Michigan State Police, the Otsego County Prosecutor, Cheboygan County Prosecutor and the U.S. Federal Attorneys Office for perjury, obstruction of justice and violation of ones Constitutional Rights. The DNR Officers were exonerated from any wrongdoing by all agencies.
Then of course, on June 5th, 2008 the Natural Resources Commission lifted the prohibition on shooting all white or albino deer. Why after almost 20 years, this can be answered in a letter received by Ingersoll from DNR Director Rebecca Humphries which states "Your situation has helped reveal to the Department that the rules and regulations relating to albino deer need to be changed. Over 20 years ago, the protections for albino deer were written in statute. As the environmental and natural resources laws were codified in the early 1990s, that law was converted to a regulation in the Wildlife Conservation Order." Ingersoll would like to point out that as seen above, one person can make a difference.
It has been a long time since Ingersoll pulled the trigger on the piebald deer back on December 19, 2004. Ingersoll hopes the Supreme Court will bring closure to this situation, but then comes the aftermath, the huge tab for standing up for hunting legally in the State of Michigan and the personal attack on my family from area residents. This will bring severe hardship to me and my family for years to come. But at some point sportsmen and women must take a stand for our right to hunt and fish in our state. The Michigan DNR has made it so we are to feel privileged to enjoy our sport rather than it being our God given right.
Ingersoll would like thank all those who have supported him through this tough battle, with cards of encouragement, financial help and moral support. Anyone who is grateful for his efforts and would like to help him get out of the financial he is in can send contributions to John Ingersoll at 7170 Tuscarora Circle, Indian River, MI 49749.
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