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Deer DNA spurs hunter to enter guilty plea

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Saturday, March 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Deer DNA was used as evidence against a Derry Township man who authorities said illegally poached multiple animals during last year's archery season.

Dennis Liberoni, 59, pleaded guilty Friday to one summary count of violating the state's game laws after a search of his home in November found remnants of as many as eight deer.

Wildlife conservation officer Brian Singer said in court documents that an anonymous complaint led officials to Liberoni's home in November.

A search of the property turned up antlers, deer hair and blood. The Game Commission sent the items to a deer DNA laboratory at East Stroudsburg University, where experts determined they came from multiple animals.

Singer said Liberoni had licenses, called tags, to bag up to three deer.

Outside the courtroom, Liberoni denied any wrongdoing.

“I shot a deer and put a tag on it. I was butchering other people's deer in my garage,” Liberoni said.

Defense lawyer John Leonard said prosecutors were not able to establish a time line of when the deer were killed.

Under state law the more illegal big game animals that are poached, the more serious the crimes that can be charged. Singer said charges for multiple deer could be considered misdemeanor or felonies.

Prosecutors originally charged Liberoni with having three too many deer.

In court on Friday, Liberoni cut a deal with prosecutors. Assistant District Attorney Pete Flanigan reduced the charges.

Originally facing a misdemeanor offense for having too many deer, prosecutors allowed Liberoni to plead guilty to one summary offense, the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

Judge Rita Hathaway sentenced him to pay a $1,000 fine and ordered him to pay $1,800 to the Game Commission for the DNA tests.

Hathaway ordered that Liberoni's deer hunting privileges be suspended for three years.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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