civil lawsuit on behalf of Charles Foster against PA Game
and Fish Commission personnel is sitting on the corner of my
desk. It was filed October 14, 2004. You should remember the
"Charles Foster Story", a column I wrote quite a few months
ago. It was such an outrageous story that a few found it
hard to believe that such a debacle could happen anywhere in
Please allow me to refresh your memory. Charlie Foster was a
"wanted man" for allegedly illegally killing a deer. A deer
carcass was found amongst a pile of trash alongside the
road. PGC law enforcement believed Charlie was the murderer.
The PGC secured a search warrant to search Fosterís home.
They showed up with Fish Commission personnel on a Sunday
afternoon in the middle of Charlie Fosterís Christening
party for his three children. They pushed Charlieís mother
into a concrete wall, hit his wife with a flashlight and
forced Charlie to take his pants off in front of 20 people.
They "house arrested" everyone detaining all in the Foster
living room. They searched Charlieís house and an additional
home (Charlieís motherís house) on the property, which may
not have been part of the search warrant.
There are many questions unanswered in regard to the search
warrant because Charlie never saw the warrant. PGC WCO
George Hinkle handled Charlie Fosterís concerns about
legality when Hinkle arrived at Charlieís home. "We are the
PA Game Commission, we donít need a search warrant" were
Hinkleís infamous words. Later PGC WCO Darren David
confirmed the PGCís law enforcement mentality when Charlie
asked again to see a warrant. "I donít need a f-----g search
warrant. Iíll show you the f-----g search warrant when Iím
good and ready to show you the f-----g search warrant".
Obviously, the PGC has some real classy and knowledgeable
individuals working for them with a full grasp of
Levin, Fishbein, Sedran and Berman, 501 Walnut Street, Suite
500, Philadelphia PA are the attorneys handling this case
for Charles Foster. The Co-council in the matter is Elmer
Robert Keach III, 74 Church Street, Hagaman, NY. Attorney
Keach prepared the document sitting on my desk. He
specializes in civil liberty cases.
PGC law enforcement personnel named in the suit are WCOís
Darren David, George Hinkle, Linda McCafferty, Frederick
Merluzzi and the retired PGC Regional Supervisor Barry
Moore. Mr. Moore was in charge of this cast of characters at
the time of the debacle. Matt Viskowski, a PFBC WCO was also
Of special concern is the fact that PGC Commission President
Russ Schleiden of Centre Hall was also sued. On April 9,
2004 Charlie Foster tried to bring his grievances before a
PGC Board of Commissioners meeting. Commission President
Russ Schleiden gaveled Mr. Foster stating "it was not the
right time and place for this kind of talk". Schleiden, in
reality, severely violated Charlie Fosterís First Amendment
rights. It was a public meeting discussing the actions of a
government agency. We should demand the resignation of Russ
Schleiden without delay or remorse.
The compensatory damages requested against most of the above
are $5 million dollars with $1 million dollars being sought
in punitive damages against almost all of them. The grand
total is $33 million dollars. Unfortunately, the cost of
embarrassment to the PGC for becoming involved in yet
another massive legal case is immeasurable. I suggest you
get a copy of this complaint. It is an easy read and will
take the sting out of your disappointing deer season by
adding some levity to your life.
Of course, the bigger issue in all of this is the number of
serious lawsuits against the PGC at any given time. It is a
clear indication of the lack of leadership, direction and
control by the PGC management. The PGC has become a major
embarrassment to this state.
Combined with our disastrous deer management program, PA is
literally becoming the laughingstock of this nation.