CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 35-year-old resident of Bay City made an appearance in federal court today and admitted he was responsible for killing a protected species, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Leonard Cornelius, 35, of Bay City, Texas, pleaded guilty to killing a Bald Eagle, no longer an endangered species, but still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This law makes it a crime to kill, possess, sell, transport, export or import, any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless specifically allowed by permit.
Today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jason B. Libby accepted the plea and ordered Cornelius to serve one year of probation and pay 11,907.50 in restitution to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The court found he killed the animal knowingly and with wanton disregard for the consequences of his actions.
“We work with our state law enforcement partners on information sharing and investigations to effectively protect our nation’s wildlife resources,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip Land of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – Office of Law Enforcement. “Through the effective enforcement of state and federal laws, we can conserve those trust species in the State of Texas and across the nation for future generations. We would like to thank the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their assistance in this case.”
On March 22, 2018, authorities located a dead bald eagle and a number of other dead animals that appeared to have been poisoned near a field located southeast of Bay City. They began looking for the source of the poison and encountered Cornelius inspecting nearby farm fields.
He soon admitted he had placed the poison in his farm fields in order to kill birds that had been damaging his crops. Cornelius admitted he coated approximately 30 pounds of corn with poison. He then spread the corn on several of his fields in order to kill the birds.
He acknowledged seeing dead birds and several dead hogs in the area after he spread the poison.
Laboratory analysis later confirmed poisoned corn caused the bald eagle’s death.
FWS conducted the investigation with assistance of TPWD. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. Thorpe Jr. is prosecuting the case.