December 7, 2022

New Jersey Bear Protesters Now In Court

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Back on March 14, 2006 I filed this report about 4 bear protesters in New Jersey who had filed a lawsuit against a wildlife officer and a bear hunter, among others, because their Constitutional right to protest was violated. Yesterday the court proceedings began.

The biggest reason I am continuing the coverage of this story is to show to the rest of the world how sick and demented some people can become about issues that are trivial at best.

The following four people, who filed the lawsuit, were charged with,

Angela Metler, 49, of Vernon, Theresa M. Fritzges, 57, of East Windsor, and Janet Piszar, 52, of Millburn, were charged with disorderly conduct, hunter harassment, obstruction of administration of law and resisting arrest. Albert Kazemian, 49, of Vernon, faces the same charges plus making terroristic threats.

Bill Devine and his son-in-law Jon White went hunting in Waywayanda State Park, New Jersey on December 7, 2005. Devine was hunting deer and White was hoping to bag a bear. Because of a complaint from hunters that activists were harassing hunters – this is against the law – Devine and White were joined by state park officer Walter Sanford. Sanford wore hunter clothing over his uniform and was essentially undercover.

The harrassing started.

Sanford said they encountered a group of five or six people “just milling about” roughly 500 feet into the woods. The group said they were birdwatching. Then, the group began “hooting” loudly, saying “Look at this” and “Look at that,” he said.

The “brass tax” began when the group started shouting and said the hunters should die instead of bears, Sanford said. A female activist in a blue coat, which Sanford identified as Metler, screamed at the top of her lungs, he said.

“It was just ridiculous,” he said.

Sanford said the activists followed the hunters in a horseshoe pattern, even when they asked to be left alone. He said he tried to rationalize with the activists, noting that American soldiers were fighting in Iraq for the freedom to hunt or air opinions.

“That’s what’s great about the U.S.,” he said. “You don’t get your tongue lopped off or your hands.”

During this discussion, Sanford testified the male activist—later identified as Kazemian—said he could “get his Arab friends to come hunt us down.”

Sanford said the comment made Devine and White visibly shaken. More than once, Sanford said the “saddest part” was when the activists said they would save a bear cub over a human baby.

“Don’t get me wrong, bear cubs are cute too,” he said. “But it’s a kid.”

After Kazemian made his threat, the officer took off his outer jacket to reveal that he was an officer and arrested him and the other three. Some that were present escaped. The three others who ultimately got arrested tried to escape but backup officers nabbed them.

After Kazemian’s alleged threats, Sanford said he took off his orange ski mask and orange hooded sweatshirt, revealing he was an officer. Sanford told Kazemian and then the activists standing on a slope below that they were under arrest, he said.

He did not handcuff Kazemian after he threatened to fall and sue the state if he was cuffed, Sanford said. Kazemian was eventually taken in for processing, as well as three others who were caught by back-up officers, he said. One activist got away, he said.

Testimony will continue and the defense will have its chance to present its side of the story. The basis of their suit will be that they were entrapped. Defense also claims they have a video of the incident.

Tom Remington