Because of funding shortages, convicted poachers are set free

The Associated Press /

EUGENE — A father and son convicted of leading Oregon’s largest-ever deer poaching ring are not behind bars, despite a jail sentence that was supposed to coincide with the start of deer hunting season.

Instead of jail time, Rory Donoho, 30, and his son Shane Donoho, 37, will spend 90 days on house arrest monitored by electronic ankle bracelets. The Donohos pleaded guilty in July to poaching charges and had been sentenced to four annual stints of 90 days in jail, beginning on the first day of deer season, which was Oct. 1 this year, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.

But because of a tight budget, Lane County can’t afford to staff its entire jail, and the available space is reserved for people convicted of violent crimes or otherwise deemed a threat to the community.

News that the poachers served no jail time disappointed but did not surprise Lane County Deputy District Attorney Jay Hall, who prosecuted the case.

“The reality of the situation is that if somebody with little or no criminal history like the Donohos were to be placed in actual custody on a nonviolent offense, that would likely result in their release due to the lack of actual jail beds,” Hall said.

“Our jail just isn’t holding people. Serious felons, burglars, car thieves, meth and heroin dealers are routinely released.”

Authorities say Shane Donoho was the ringleader of a poaching ring that illegally killed 300 deer over a five year period. Oregon State Police fish and wildlife officers estimated that the Donohos’ poaching operation wiped out the deer population in two drainage basins of the McKenzie Wildlife Management District.

In April, police arrested nine people from Springfield in connection with the poaching ring. Authorities said they illegally transferred hunting licenses and tags.

The operation was complex. In addition to getting the hunting licenses, the group also was found with keys to timber land, authorities said at the time.

Big-game law in Oregon allows an elk hunting season in October and a deer season in parts of October and November. Each hunter is generally permitted one “tag” per season, meaning he or she can only take one animal.

The Donoho poaching ring is accused of taking several times that much over five years. During raids earlier this month, police found 1,600 pounds of processed deer meat and two whole female elk.