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Lesters Found 'Not Guilty' on Fishing Related Charges

Attorney says the DEC is getting a bill for taking the family's dinner.

After a two-hour bench trial in on Wednesday, were cleared of all charges brought against them this summer stemming from a raid at their Amagansett clam stand and home.

Justice found the brother and sister not guilty on several State Department of Environment charges.

In July, DEC officers went to the Lesters' property on Abraham's Path, , and sold them to the local fish market.

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.

Daniel G. Rodgers, the Lesters' attorney, said the prosecution had no proof. "I asked the officer: Did you see Kelly Lester sell any shellfish? 'No,'" was the response, Rodgers said. He said the answer was 'no' to all of the questions regarding the officers actually seeing the Lester commit the alleged violation. "They had no case," he said.

The prosecution called the DEC officers and a technician, to validate fishing records, to testify.

The defense put Stuart Vorphal of Amagansett on the stand. Vorphal gave expert opinion as baymen and fisherman who has fished the East Hampton waters for more than 60 years, according to the Rodgers.

While the DEC officer testified that the Lesters had untagged containers of fish and that the catch should have been tagged "upon landing" at a dock, Rodgers asked how someone in a 14-foot wooden boat could be expected to carry all the necessary equipment to tag fish.

Vorphal established for the defense that it was an impossibility for baymen and historically not done because it wasn't feasible, Rodgers said.

Rodgers said the Lesters "are just over the moon, very very happy."

On Thursday, Rodgers said, the DEC will be sent a bill for $202.75. That's how much the fish was worth that the officers sold after confiscating it. "That's their dinner. You're paying," Rodger said.

Jed H. October 27, 2011 at 10:52 AM
Yes Yes Bub! Congrats to the Lesters!
Lady L October 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM
Myriad regulations and low limits keep local fishermen near poverty, all due to an out of control government. We the people should be making rules for our town, county and state, not bureaucrats in DC.
Loretta Lynch October 27, 2011 at 11:51 AM
Congrats to the Lesters and a big thanks for standing up for your rights. It has helped all baymen. Great job Steuart, as usual you hit the nail on the head.
Kathleen Waygood October 27, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Congratulations to the Lester family and a big thanks to all who helped them win this ridiculous case.
pat October 27, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Congrats to the Lesters.
Bruce Colbath October 27, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Congratulations! We're very happy for the Lesters and looking forward to supporting them in the future. Love their oysters!
Carole Campolo October 27, 2011 at 05:21 PM
A victory for sanity over intrusive, liberty killing state regulations. More judges should throw these cases out. Thank you, Judge Rana.
Michelle O'Connell October 27, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Congratulations Bub!
bonacbabe October 27, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Way to go Bubbies!!!
Karin Gosman October 28, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Congratulations to the Lester family! It's nice to see justice and common sense prevail.

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