A couple in Connersville, Ind., who nursed Dani the deer back to health have been facing misdemeanor charges that could mean 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. / courtesy photo via The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS - The state Department of Natural Resources said Friday that it will ask that charges be dismissed against a couple who rescued an injured deer.
The agency came to that decision after Gov. Mike Pence asked it to re-evaluate its case, officials said.
Jeff and Jennifer Counceller of Connersville, Ind., had been charged with illegal possession of a deer. The couple rescued the deer in 2010 after Jeff Counceller, a police officer, found it injured while on a police call.
They named it Dani and after nursing it back to health, the Councellers kept the deer penned for nearly two years on their property about 55 miles east of Indianapolis with the idea they would release it into the wild when it was mature.
"Last summer they were found to still have the deer but no DNR permit authorizing them to possess it," according to the Department of Natural Resources statement. So "the case was turned over to the Fayette County prosecutor."
While the charge is a misdemeanor, if punished to the fullest, it could cost the Councellers up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Until the county prosecutor honors the agency's request, the couple faces a March trial date.
Social media has propelled the case, first publicized Monday, into a tricky political situation for the governor. By mid-day Friday, a Facebook page created to raise awareness had 38,000 likes, a petition to drop the charges had more than 33,000 signatures and a legal defense fund raised almost $2,300.
Pence is a Republican seen as a champion of limited government but initially praised the department for acting appropriately.
And Department of Natural Resources has shown discretion before.
In 2007, it declined to discipline two conservation officers who used false addresses to secure cheaper, in-state fishing licenses in Ohio.
One of them was the conservation officer who spent a month last year investigating the Councellers.
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