Wednesday, January 29, 2014

15. Convicted for evicting trespassers

Shannon Stone, 35, happily divorced from her trophy-hunting ex-husband of fifteen years, lived with her son Trevor, 14, on her 20-acre hobby farm near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which she had run much like one would a wildlife sanctuary.  There were NO TRESPASSING and NO HUNTING signs tagged on to the trunks of the larger trees along the perimeter, facing of course outward.  Over the years, these signs had suffered more damage than normal wear and tear.  Many were defaced, others were torn down, and some were riddled with bullet holes.  

One morning at dusk, she was awakened by her dog Wolfie barking.  This in itself was not unusual, considering that white-tailed deer frequented these woods, and the occasional black bear or coyote.  But this time, Wolfie seemed to mean business.  Shannon looked out the front windows and the side windows, and saw nothing, but when she looked out her back windows, she saw some ill-defined movement at the far end of her property.  She looked through her binoculars, and saw a half-dozen camo-clad men in the process of stalking White Shadow, her favorite buck, who visited the old apple orchard on a daily basis.  She saw him springing his antlers, saw them lose their velvet and harden into lethal-looking 8-point antlers surpassing those of yesteryear.  She had her biases, but in her eyes, the crown on Shadow's head had the most regal lines by far.  Her heart would melt every time she saw him emerge from the back-woods and walk trustingly into the apple grove.  But it dawned on her that one day, those magnificent antlers would be his undoing.  And that day appeared to be at hand.

"What's going on, mom?"  Trevor was walking in his thick socks and she was too concentrated to notice his presence in the room.

"Oh, Trevor, you startled me.  There are some hunters going after Shadow in our apple grove, that's what's going on."  

"We say NO HUNTING.  Can't they read?"

"Apparently not.  And if they could, they're not respecting it."

"Let me call the police," said Trevor, reaching for the phone.

"Hold on.  Let's first ask them to leave."

"And if they refuse?"

"Then call police."

"Then I'll bring the cell phone along."

"You're not going anywhere."

"Why not?  I can shoot better than you," said Trevor, reaching for the gun cabinet as well.

"And there will be no shooting."

"How many of them are there?  Let me take a look," said Trevor, reaching for the binoculars in her hands.  She handed them to him.  He moved to the window and glassed the backwoods.  His lower jaw dropped.  "One, two, three, four, five, six.  And, hey, that's Jimmy who works at Costco.  We're are hockey team mates.  Let me go talk to him."

"You will do nothing of the sort.  Your job is to stay here and hold the fort.  Haha, no rhyme intended."  

"And you will not go out there by yourself either," said Trevor, eyes still glued to the binoculars.

Shannon looked at him, feeling immensely proud.  Just months ago, he had a boy's voice.  Now, inches taller, taller than even her now, he was sporting the budding voice of a man. 

"Damn it, mom!  Look!  That asshole has a red spot on Shadow!"

"Okay, listen.  You stay here with the binoculars, and note down everything you see.  I'll hang the camera from my neck, and leave the video function on."

She went to the rear door and opened it on the way out.

"Hey mom!  You forgot the shot-gun!" yelled Trevor.

"No guns."  And the door closed behind her.  

In frustration, Trevor resumed his telescopic surveillance.  He saw Shannon approaching the hunters in a stately march, while yelling something to them that he couldn't catch.  Then, she and the hunters were engaged in conversation, which looked more like an argument, complete with menacing hand gestures and aggressive body language on the men's part.  Then the one doing the talking made a cell phone call, and adopted a waiting attitude.  One thing he and the others did not do was to leave. 

"Oh, hi, Jimmy, fancy seeing you here," she said to the overgrown kid who worked at Costco, and to the camera hanging from her neck which she had activated in the video mode.  

"Oh, hi, Mrs. Stone.  I didn't know that you live around here."

"No, as the movie says, I don't live around here.  I live here.  It is my property you're on, without my permission."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mrs. Stone, I'll leave right away."

"Hold your horse, son," said the leader of the pack.  "You ain't goin' nowhere.  We have the right to be here."

"You have the right to trespass on my property?" she said incredulously.

"Under the law, ma'am, we have the right to pursue game on to your property.  It says that anyone interrupting a hunt, wherever it is in progress, on whichever property it is being conducted, is in violation of said law and subject to heavy fine and imprisonment.  And you, ma'am, just violated this law by interrupted our hunt, scaring away our deer, and harassing us."

Shannon was suddenly furious.  "Your deer?  Who says that the deer belongs to you?""

"I just did.  Once I've chosen him and begun the chase, by law he is mine.  Plus, as I said, once the hunt has begun, it cannot be interrupted, wherever it is being conducted.  I have the right to follow game into anybody's property, including yours." 

"By what law?"

"The Hunter Harassment Statute of the great state of Pennsylvania."

"I don't know about your state law.  What I can prove in court is that you are violating my property rights which are guaranteed under the American Constitution.  You are violating my constitutional rights.  For the last time, I ask you to leave, NOW."

"Out of the goodness of my heart, ma'am, I advise you to turn back and lock yourself inside your house until the time we are ready to leave, in which case I will overlook the interruption and proceed with the hunt, if we could salvage it."

"What about the rest of you gentlemen, are you staying or going?"  Shannon ignored him and addressed the others.

No one said a word, but no one moved.  

"Very well."  She pull her cell phone out of her jacket pocket, and dialed 9-1-1.  "Hello.  My property is being invaded by six armed trespassers, and they refuse to leave."

After a few questions, she gave her address.

Before she hung up, the leader of the pack pulled out his phone again and made another call.

She could not hear the whole conversation, but at one point, she heard him say, "... Yep, another one of those hysterical antis..."

While she waited for the police to come, she was subjected to a variety of verbal and gestural abuse.

"Hey Jimmy!  Nice back-hand goal the other night!?" shouted Trevor.

She was startled.  Trevor was right behind her.  And then, he advanced two more steps, and was now in front of her.

"Trevor, what are you doing?!" she whispered at him.

"Hey, Trev!  Didn't know that you live around here," said Jimmy.

"I don't live around here.  I live here."

"Haha, these two must have seen the same movie," jeered one of the hunters.

"Sorry, Trev, I didn't know that," said Jimmy.

"DON'T BE SORRY!  JIMMY, YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE!" snarled the leader-of-the-pack.

 "So Jimmy, what this guy is saying is 'BECAUSE I CAN'.  Are you trespassing on my property because you can?"


"Jimmy, 'Love it or leave it' is the saying of a bigot.  Are you a bigot, Jimmy?" said Trevor.

Jimmy didn't say anything.

Trevor added, "Often, we withhold exercising our rights out of consideration of others' feelings.  It is not illegal to bully people, but if you exercise this right, you're an inconsiderate bully, and all bullies are cowards."

"What did you say?" said Jimmy to the leader.

"Look Jimmy, your mom is sexy and all, but I mean his mom here.  So it is none of your business."

"You are insulting my friend and his mother, and this makes it my business.  I think you owe my friend Trevor and his mom an apology."

"Whose side are you on?!"

"My side," said Jimmy.  "And my side includes my friend Jimmy here.  It is the side I belief to be right."  And with this, Jimmy walked over and stood with Trevor.
"So we're at a stand off," thought Shannon to herself.  "I hope the police will show up soon to break this up."  She glanced at her watch.  It'd been twenty minutes since her 911 call.


"So shoot me," said Jimmy without raising his gun.

In a rage, the leader swung his rifle up.  

"NO, JOE!" yelled one of the hunters.


The other hunter said to Trevor, "As you can see, things are getting pretty ugly around here, son.  I would just go back to the house."
"And if we don't?" said Shannon.

"Then... don't."  The man said , resignedly.

"SHUT UP, IDIOT!" yelled Joe.

The two opposing parties, three against five, stood facing each other like sentries across some DMZ.

Finally, more than half an hour after Shannon's 911 call, a police car pulled up into Shannon's driveway, and a lone policeman ambled slowly up to the crime scene.  

"Hello, Joe.  What seems to be the problem?" he said.

"No huge problem, Craig, I mean, officer," said Joe.  "Just that we lost a prime 8-pointer due to the deliberate harassment by this woman."

"I am the person making the 9-1-1 call, officer.  My name is Shannon Stone.  And they are trespassing on my property."

"Was the hunt in progress when this woman harassed you?" the policeman all but ignored Shannon.

"Just a second, officer," interjected Trevor.  "You are talking as if my mother's the guilty party."

"Sure as hell she is," said Joe.  "I had his chest red-dotted when she began screaming to high heaven.  Of course the deer ran off and the hunt was ruined."

The policeman turned back to Trevor and said, "And who are you?"

"I am Trevor Stone, the lady's son."

"And how old are you?"


"You shouldn't even be here," said Craig the cop.

Turning back to the hunters, he said, "Did this person do anything against you?"

"Sure as hell he did!  He caused one of our party, and a witness to the crime, to turn against us.  He is guilty of obstruction of justice!"

Craig turned back to Shannon and, without asking her a single question, that is, without taking her testimony, said officiously, "Lady. I am placing you under arrest for violating the Hunter Harassment Statute of the state of Pennsylvania, and for obstruction of justice.  You have the right to remain silent..."

Shannon remortgaged her farm to raise money for their bail.  Meanwhile, Trevor was processed through juvenile court.  A year later, Shannon was convicted by the state court on six counts of violation of the Hunter Harassment Statute, and one count of obstruction of justice.  

Good thing she was an attorney.  She appealed the case to a federal court, and had the convictions eventually overturned.  Now, she was on a war path to sue the Hunter Harassment Statute itself for being unconstitutional, and she has been fighting this case for the last three years.

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