Plea agreement for two people accused of inhuman treatment of bears

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The last two co-defendants accused of torturing black bears have resolved their criminal cases, ending the four-year saga.

Dustin Reddish and Troy Travis Starling, flanked by attorneys Stephen Bernstein and B. Larry Smith, respectively, took turns before Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti on Tuesday.

Starling, 49, and Reddish, 29, who are from Lake Butler, have both been charged with conspiracy to commit a violation of the RICO Act. Reddish faced additional charges: three counts of criminal animal cruelty; criminal trash; illegal use of a two-way communication device to facilitate; illegal black bear harvest; and using an animal to fight or bait another animal.

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State vs. Troy Travis Starling

After listening to the negotiated settlement reached by State’s Attorney Robert Miller and defense attorneys, Tatti found both men guilty.

Starling, wearing a shirt and pants, was sentenced first. He was sentenced to five years probation. He cannot hunt, own hunting dogs, or enter the Ocala National Forest during his probationary period.

He was ordered to pay $22,847 to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the cost of the investigation. Others who have been arrested and charged by FFWC officers must also pay this cost.

Starling was also ordered to pay $4,688.43 to the state’s attorney’s office.

State vs. Dustin Reddish

Red was next. He too was wearing a shirt and pants. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail followed by five years probation.

Bernstein asked the judge if his client could serve his jail time in Union County, instead of Marion County Jail. He gave the judge a letter from Union County stating that state officials would pick up Reddish from the local jail and transport him to their facility.

Tatti told the attorney that if he didn’t object to the request, the trade would have to be approved by Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods.

Continuing with Reddish’s sentencing, Tatti told Reddish he had to pay $22,847 to the FFWC and $4,688.43 to the SWPO.

Similar to Starling, Reddish cannot hunt, have hunting dogs, or enter the NFB.

Reddish was handcuffed and fingerprinted by a bailiff at the end of his hearing.

Nine arrests in total

By Tuesday, five men and two women had already resolved their cases through plea negotiations: William “Willie Bob” Edward Landrum, 43, of Virginia; Hannah Weiner Scarbrough, 30, and her husband, Charles, 33, both of Callahan, Fla.; Haley Reddish, 29, of Lake Butler; Christopher Elliot Haun, 45, of Ormond Beach; William Tyler Wood, 32, of Lake Butler; and Mark Christopher Lindsey, 29, of Moultrie, Georgia.

Lindsey and Wood were sentenced to prison for their roles in the incidents.

hunted black bears

FFWCC officers, who were in charge of the investigation, said the men and women used trained dogs to savagely attack black bears living in several wildlife areas. An attack took place at the ONF.

State officials said savory, sugary treats were used to attract the bears, which were then chased by trained dogs. The dogs were monitored with GPS devices, authorities said.

The frightened bears quickly climbed the trees and stood there, waiting for the dogs to leave. The dogs stayed under the trees for the bears, state officials said.

A photo of a black bear

Sensing that they had nowhere to go, the frightened bears jumped from tree to tree. Some of the bears fell to the ground.

Those who fell were chased and viciously attacked by the dogs. State officials said at least one bear was shot and then skinned.

The attacks were recorded and the videos were later posted on social media sites, officials said.

Contact Austin L. Miller at [email protected].

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