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Lesters Tell the DEC, Pay Up

Paul and Kelly Lester ready to go after the money they said the DEC made after selling their confiscated fish.

Kelly and Paul Lester are headed back to court — this time to get the $202.25 they say the state office that arrested them last summer owes them.

The were brought against them stemming from a raid at their Amagansett clam stand and home. After a trial in October, Justice found the brother and sister not guilty on several State Department of Environment violations.

DEC officers had 74.5 lbs of fluke and 16 lbs of scup and sold them to for $202.25, according to Daniel G. Rodgers, who represented the Lesters at trial.

He said one box of 50 lbs of fluke legally belonged to Paul and Kelly's brother James Lester and that the tag with his name on it was on the ground next to the box. The remaining 24.5 lbs of fluke and the 16 lbs of scup were on a table being prepared by L J Arceri for Lester family's dinner that night.

Kelly was initially charged with a misdemeanor for the alleged sale of shellfish to the public without a permit, but the charge was later dropped to a violation at arraignment. Paul was charged with possession of untagged fluke and possession of over the limit fluke, which are violations, not considered a criminal offense under the statute.

Paul happened into the market at the time a DEC officer was making the sale and asked for his fish back, Rodger said. There is no process in place for fishermen to fight for their catch.

Rodgers said his clients waited to see if the DEC would pay up after the acquittal. Two weeks ago, they filed a "Demand for Payment," a legal action, stating they will take all necessary measures. They've yet to receive a response.

"The DEC took their fish without their permission, in any other explanation, that is the classic definition of theft (Petit Larceny, NYS Penal Law 155.25)," Rodgers said in an email on Monday. "They stole their fish, they must pay for it or be charged with a crime," he said.

Taylor K. Vecsey (Editor) March 19, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Kathleen Beebe Waygood wrote on Facebook, "GO FOR IT!"
Carole Campolo March 20, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Second the "GO FOR IT." The confiscation of private property, whether it be land or the sweat of a fisherman's brow, must stop. Government must be accountable to the Lesters, taxpayers first and foremost, who should not only ask for their money back but they should ask for interest for the time they were deprived of their money and also for "pain and suffering." They should notify the Governor's office of this issue. I think Andy Cuomo, these days anyway, is a reasonable man and hopefully will see to it that they are justifiably compensated.
MARTIN DREW March 20, 2012 at 04:19 AM
In Bonac there is a process for fighting for your catch ; A punch in the eye last I knew . Short of fists or cuffs ; DEC pay up ! What about the lawyer fees when due process finds you innocent ?
Lady L March 20, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Classic DEC procedure to cash in on the hard work of the fishermen. It is hard enough to eek out a living on the water without the overzealous DEC ready to snatch the food off the fisherman's table. Pay up DEC.
S.B. Bonacker March 20, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Yup, pay up DEC, with interest compounded on a daily basis. To accompany the check in the mail should be an apology letter personally signed by Gov. Cuomo. This kind of harassement and illegal seizure has to stop.
Preliator March 20, 2012 at 05:37 PM
The Lester's should forget the money and just press charges against the DEC and their agents; send them to jail. Also, where are our reps on this, what does Thiele think, how about LaValle, where do they stand and what can they do about and out of control body like the DEC?
Riveting March 26, 2012 at 10:58 AM
In many cases where law enforcement makes a seizure, the evidence seized is, in itself, illegal to possess. Oversized/undersized fish, over limit quantities, out of season species etc., cannot be returned to the person it was seized from, any more than you could return cocaine to someone who was not convicted of possession.

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