Feds seek to revoke celebrity hunter's probation
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A celebrity hunter from Tennessee illegally baits his land for turkeys and violated terms of his federal probation in Kansas by participating in hunting parties that included NFL players and members of a country music band, wildlife agents testified Thursday at a hearing for William "Spook" Spann.
Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to revoke the probation of Spann, 50, of Dickson, Tenn., who pleaded guilty in November to transporting unlawfully taken wildlife across state lines in violation of the federal Lacey Act. They also want him to spend three months in jail.
Spann, who owns property in Stafford County in south-central Kansas, killed a deer in November 2007 on land adjacent to his own after paying the landowner $5,000 for permission to do so, according to court documents. His nonresident hunting permit, though, allowed him to hunt only on his own property, so under Kansas law the deer was taken illegally.
It became a federal case when he transported the antlers across state lines to his home in Tennessee. Federal agents executed a search warrant at his home Jan. 25, 2011 — more than three years after the Kansas hunt — and seized the antlers.
Spann, who has a hunting show, "Spook Nation," on television's Pursuit Channel, was sentenced in February to three years' probation, fined $10,000, order to pay $10,000 in restitution and ordered not to hunt anywhere in the U.S. for six months. He also was forbidden from violating any hunting laws.
Tennessee and federal wildlife agents testified Thursday that Spann had spread "scratch grain" on several of his properties to attract turkeys during hunting season, in violation of Tennessee law. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Oakley spent hours Thursday showing video footage of Spann, dressed in camouflage, escorting hunters around his land and using a turkey call to draw in the birds.
Among those photographed on his property were starting Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker and his backup, Rusty Smith; free-agent NFL running back Jerious Norwood; and members of the country music band Bush Hawg.
Wildlife agents set up hidden cameras on three of Spann's properties after his former cameraman tipped them off in late March that there would be hunting on the land and that Spann was illegally placing bait.
The former employee, Thomas Southerland, testified that he quit working for Spann in April because he felt like he was "perpetuating a lie" because the video footage used for Spann's shows didn't always match reality.
Southerland said he worked for Spann for five years and that during that time the two regularly put out bait and did other "small things" that made him uncomfortable.
Spann's attorney, John Aisenbrey, challenged Tennessee's definition of hunting — which includes aiding others who are hunting — as too broad. He argued that Spann was neither carrying a gun or shooting anything in any of the videos, so he wasn't actually hunting.
Testimony continued into the evening and was expected to resume Friday morning.