James A. Gauley pleads guilty to conservation offenses

Cathy Decker/Staff Reporter

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, Katherine Drummond, attorney for defendant James A. Gauley, 24, and Assistant State's Attorney Meeghan N. Lee, met in Mercer County Court before Judge Gregory G. Chickrus on a case concerning numerous conservation offenses. Gauley pled guilty to 28 separate counts of assorted conservation misdemeanor charges.

"Thanks to the outstanding investigation conducted by Sargeant Laura Petreikis of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, proof was gathered including dozens of serious conservation crimes in the last three years," said ASA Lee.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Petreikis and her partner Illinois Department of Natural Resources officer Anthony Petreikis enlisted the help of the Illinois State Police and recovered photographs of nearly 100 animals believed to have been shot by Gauley. The investigation showed carcasses piled up as "bait" to lure other animals, some of which had been beheaded and left to rot, others had been butchered, and in one instance, what appeared to be a doe had been pulverized by being run over multiple times with an ATV.

According to ASA Lee, after multiple unsuccessful motions by the defendant, Gauley pled guilty to 28 separate counts of misdemeanor criminal conduct. Gauley was placed on misdemeanor probation for 24 months on Count 1, that on or about Oct. 10, 2008, in Mercer County the defendant committed the offense of unlawful possession of an illegally taken deer (an antlered buck), a Class B misdemeanor. In addition to the probation, he was given 179 days in jail, credit for time served, fined $3,500 plus court costs, ordered to pay a $10,000 donation to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and make a $300 donation to Mercer County Crime Stoppers.

The misdemeanor order also prohibits Gauley from hunting for 15 years by any method, nor can he be in the presence of any person conducting hunting activity. He was also ordered to obtain a psychological evaluation. All items seized in the search are forfeited to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

On Count II, he received a second consecutive sentence of 24 months probation along with 179 days in jail.

On the guilty pleas to counts three through 27, Gauley was convicted  of 25 misdemeanors with each to be served consecutively, meaning he will be on conditional discharge for 25 years. He was assessed court costs on each count and ordered not to possess a firearm during this period.

Gauley was also convicted of one petty offense, the illegal shooting of a protected species, a great blue heron, for which he  was fined an additional $120.

Lee said the case was a huge one for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. "This case is one of the largest scale investigations and one of the largest sum outcome in history of the state of Illinois." In all, fines and costs totaled $18,033. Sgt. Petreikis is an outstanding officer and has gone to great lengths to secure a conviction on this case. Her dedication to her job is an inspiration for all officers," Lee said. "We are very lucky to have her working for our best interests and the safety of our citizens. Every day she is out there protecting Illinois wildlife."