Man fined, sentenced for illegally possessing bald eaglet

March 8, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated March 8, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.

A Missouri City man was sentenced Friday to three years probation and fined $15,000 for illegally possessing a baby bald eagle.

A federal judge in Corpus Christi also gave Sam Mathew, 53, 150 hours of community service, a $10 special assessment fee and ordered him to attend anger management or mental health treatments as determined by his probation officer.

"We're very pleased with the sentence, and we hope that this sends out the message that we are going to protect our nation's wildlife," U.S. Attorney Hugo Martinez said, adding this was an unusual case.

Mathew's attorney Jimmy Granberry could not be reached for comment.

Mathew testified in his own defense in December that he took the eaglet after he saw it dangling precariously from a tree by its talons on his Wharton County ranch. He said its parents were not there.

"I believed that the bird was in danger ... that it was very precious to this country," he told jurors.

A Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden found the eaglet some 24 hours later alongside feces in a hay-filled container in Mathew's barn in February 2012.

The warden received the tip from Mathew's neighbor, Vonda Smith, who said Mathew bragged previously about how he could train it to fly down onto his arm.

The bird is in a sanctuary, Angela Dodge, a U.S. Attorneys Office's public information officer, said in December.

Possessing a bald eagle violates the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It only allows for the possession of non-game birds if they are hurt and if a person immediately transports it to be rehabilitated.



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