by Matt O'Connor
April 18, 2001
A big-game hunter who operated a wildlife museum in rural Pennsylvania
was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago to 10 months
in custody for violating federal wildlife and firearms laws.
Paul W. Asper of Lock Haven, Pa., was arrested on Christmas 1998
at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after he failed to report
that he was carrying two black rhinoceros horns in his luggage,
Prosecutors contended Asper had taken the rhino horns on a hunting
trip to China in hopes of selling them but was unsuccessful and
returned to the U.S. with them.
In China, the horns are ground up and used to treat fevers, strokes
U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall split the 10-month sentence
so Asper could serve half the time in prison or a community confinement
center and half in home confinement.
Asper expressed bitterness with the U.S. government, saying he
has been hounded for years as he returned to the U.S. from overseas
Asper's lawyers, Theodore Poulos and Terence Campbell, said their
client grew up in the Pennsylvania countryside during the Depression,
learning to hunt and trap to feed his family.
They portrayed the violations as technical and Asper as a dedicated
conservationist who traveled the world hunting responsibly. Until
last fall, he operated a popular Pennsylvania tourist spot--the
Fin, Fur and Feather Wildlife Museum--where he hung trophies of
hundreds of his kills, the lawyers said.
But Assistant U.S. Atty. Lawrence Oliver said Asper has a record
of violations for illegally importing crocodile and leopard hides,
smuggling a bald eagle from Canada and a 1990 conviction for smuggling
endangered species into the U.S. He was sentenced to 30 months in
In the latest charges, Asper also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing
a hunting rifle.