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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : April 2001 : Game hunter sentenced in rhinoceros horn case
 

Game hunter sentenced in rhinoceros horn case

 
by Matt O'Connor
Chicago Tribune
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, authorities said.

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 and comas.

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 hunting trips.

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 prison then.

In the latest charges, Asper also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a hunting rifle.




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