NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A Louisiana man has been ordered to spend 45 days in prison and pay a $2,500 fine for killing a whooping crane in 2014 and killing ducks a year later from a moving truck, authorities said.
If Lane Thibodeaux of Gueydan fails to pay the fine within a year, the 21-year-old man could return to prison for another six months, defense attorney Barry Sallinger said Tuesday. He wrote in an email that Thibodeaux had fired toward a flock of white ibis but didn't mean to kill the endangered crane standing among them.
Sallinger later said by phone that Thibodeaux's actions were "ill-advised and inappropriate" though he said the man didn't have "specific intent" to kill the birds when he fired at them with a rifle from a distance. Hunting either species is illegal.
The female whooping crane had a leg wound when she was found near the community of Gueydan on Nov. 2, 2014, less than a year after being released to the wild. She had to be euthanized the next day.
After getting tips that Thibodeaux had killed the crane, agents obtained a warrant to search his phone and found photos and videos of him shooting ducks from the driver's seat of a moving truck in the area where the crane was found, said a statement issued Tuesday by Adam Einck, enforcement spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The ducks were killed Feb. 14, 2015, according to the bill of information against Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux pleaded guilty July 7 to one count of killing the crane and four involving the ducks. According to court documents, Thibodeaux didn't have a hunting license, and he shot the ducks out of season and from the driver's seat of a moving truck. The fifth charge was wanton waste of migratory game birds, for killing and crippling ducks and just leaving their bodies.
U.S. District Judge Carol Whitehurst, in sentencing Thibodeaux to 45 days, said the term will begin after Thibodeaux leaves state custody. He has been jailed for several weeks, and he and his family decided together that he wouldn't seek bond "until he could resolve these charges and seek long-term substance abuse help," Sallinger said.
A department news release said that if Thibodeaux pays the fine within a year, he will serve five 45-day sentences all at once - but otherwise, he serves them one after the other.
That's a condition of Thibodeaux's probation, Sallinger said.
Informants will split a $10,000 reward for his conviction. Einck said he can't give the number of informants.
Thibodeaux also faces state charges of witness intimidation, for threatening people who knew he'd shot the crane and telling them not to talk to investigators, said Einck. Sallinger confirmed that those charges are pending.