Bear poacher applies for accelerated rehabilitation

While about 15 anti-bear killing protesters waved signs out front of the State Superior Court in Norwalk Nov. 30, alleged Wilton bear poacher Antonio Lio stood inside Courtroom C and through his attorney requested admission into the accelerated rehabilitation program.

That means that on Dec. 10, his next court date, if he is approved for the program there will be no trial and his record will be cleared. Accelerated rehabilitation usually involves avoiding further arrests and attendance in a probation program for at least a year. It is a program intended for first-time offenders.

The outcome did not go over well with animal activists.

“We will keep on appearing before the state legislature to get stiffer penalties, and we will be back,” said Annie Hornish, Connecticut director of the Humane Society of the United States, who observed the court proceedings while others protested outside.

Officers from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Environmental Conservation (EnCon) Police responded to a report of a bear killing Sept. 16 and said Lio, 28, of Wilton was seen exiting the woods allegedly carrying a bear skin, head and paws stored in his backpack. He was accompanied by Daniel Moran, 33, of Norwalk.

Lio was charged with two counts of illegal taking of black bear and one count of fourth-degree negligent hunting. He was released on a $5,000 non-surety bond for the misdemeanors.

Moran was charged with conspiracy to commit illegal taking of black bear and was released on a $3,000 non-surety bond.

Moran on Nov. 30 pleaded guilty as charged, and subjected himself to the maximum penalty, a $500 fine.

“We’re satisfied one of them got the maximum penalty, but we want to work harder to increase penalties for bear poaching,” Hornish said.

The protesters carried their signs without shouting, after being directed to keep on the move by courthouse security officers, but they voiced their concerns when asked by reporters.

About half a dozen reporters and camera operators showed up for the demonstration.

“I’ve never been a hunter. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it,” said protester Richard DeMartino of Branford, who was one of the first protesters to arrive and waited patiently inside the courthouse until the others appeared, carrying printed signs.

“I’m pretty upset about it,” said protester Alice Garrard of Redding, who said the fact that the bear was skinned, beheaded and depawed for trophies particularly enraged her.