Ohio - A Democrat who is running for election as Fairfield County commissioner has been charged with a misdemeanor count of illegally selling deer meat. George C. Hallarn, a Greenfield Township trustee making his third run for county commissioner, said yesterday that he didn't know he was doing anything wrong and was surprised to have been charged with a crime.
He said he processes the deer that hunters bring to him then has it made into summer sausage rolls that he sells.
"It makes me look like a bad guy, and, with the election time, it's going to hurt me," said Hallarn, 62, who lives in Carroll. "They couldn't have waited two weeks?"
Hallarn and four others were charged Friday in Fairfield County Municipal Court. The charges accuse them of illegal deer-meat sales after an Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife investigation into the owners of Rienschield Finer Meats, a Bremen butcher shop.
Kenneth L. Rienschield, 54, and Kathleen Jo Rienschield, 47, who own the shop, were each charged with three felony counts of prohibited sale of wildlife.
Mr. Rienschield also was charged with one felony count of theft, accused of stealing deer meat that was supposed to be donated to food pantries through the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry program.
A plea deal likely will resolve the case, said Andrew H. Stevenson, the Rienschields' attorney. He declined to elaborate on the agreement being negotiated with the county prosecutor.
The Rienschields are accused of illegally selling thousands of pounds of deer meat from July 6, 2007, to April 4, 2010, according to authorities.
The illegal sale of deer meat is not unheard of in Ohio, but the amount that the Rienschields allegedly sold is unusual, said Kirk Kiefer, an investigator with the Division of Wildlife.
"The magnitude of this one is uncommon," he said. "I think a lot is going on, but just not this quantity."
The couple did not return telephone messages seeking comment.
Hallarn said he typically brought processed deer meat to the Rienschields' business, where it was made into sausage rolls that he then sold to the hunters who had dropped off their deer, as well as to others.
"I didn't realize what I was doing was wrong," Hallarn said.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. Also scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on similar misdemeanor charges are Cory A. Foraker, 20, of Somerset in Perry County, and Gregory S. Shull, 54, of Lancaster.