Charles Williams, a University of South Carolina board of trustees member plead guilty after he was charged with baiting and trapping rare red-tailed hawks using pigeons and then executing the raptors using his pistol.
The bizarre charges came after a 2013 investigation was launched at Williams’ plantation when the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources received a tip that a hawk had been trapped in a cage near a power line near the trustee’s plantation.
DNR agents then installed seven hidden video cameras at various sites around the property where agents had found additional traps. The video evidence revealed the killing of five hawks and a bobcat over a three month period. DNR agents went on to seize 16 box traps and recovered the remains of 28 different hawks after executing a search warrant on the property.
Charles Williams wept in court as U.S. Magistrate Judge Shiva Hodges laid down a $75,000 fine for trapping and shooting federally protected birds. The fine is one of the largest in recent years handed down to an individual for killing wildlife.
“I’m ashamed to be here,” Williams said. “I’m sorry. I’m embarrassed for my children, for my friends. I tried to do right all my life and be an example for my children. I love hunting, but that is no excuse,”
In addition to the fine, Williams also lost his hunting privileges for one year and was ordered to perform 50 hours of community service at Lowcountry wildlife center, where one of the surviving hawks he shot was taken to by officials.
The two other men involved in the poaching ring were each fined $1,000 and also received a one-year hunting ban for the role they played in the killing of the hawks.
H/T: The State