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Necessity defense leads to not guilty verdict in Oglesby eagle case

Posted by wlpo on February 26, 2015

Was it necessary for Steve Patterson to break a law to prevent greater harm to a couple injured eaglets? A jury deciding his fate thought so.

After nearly two hours, a jury Thursday afternoon returned not guilty verdicts on charges of illegal taking of a bird of prey and illegal taking of a protected species. Despite admitting he took two baby eagles from their parents when told to stay away by law enforcement, the jury felt he acted out of necessity to save the eaglets lives.

Defense attorney Tom McClintock told the jury during his closing argument that the eaglets taken by Patterson from a fallen nest were “doomed to die” and he did the right thing by rescuing them, not “taking” them as the prosecution tried to prove. McClintock said conservation officers didn’t care if the eaglets lived or died and claimed the DNR stands for “Do Not Resuscitate”.

During his closing argument, Assistant State’s Attorney Zach Milus asked the jury to apply the law in their decision and not let sympathetic feelings factor in. Milus says Patterson had several more reasonable options and he didn’t act out of necessity because he waited to call for help hours after taking the eagles. Also he didn’t consider it all that dire of a situation when he did call for assistance because he kept information from those who could help.

Patterson’s first trial last year ended in a hung jury. He faced only fines if convicted.

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