17-year-old Sebastian Davis and another teen, 17-year-old Jasmine Ohmer, videotaped themselves running into two deer with their truck and laughing about it. The incident happened in a residential neighborhood in Petersburg in February. The video was posted on Snap Chat, which quickly spread around town.
Davis pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts—harassing game from a motorized land vehicle and taking game from a motorized vehicle. Two initial counts were consolidated and two were dropped.
The two final charges carried a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, $25,000 in fines, and probation for one year.
After an hour and a half at the hearing, Superior Court Judge William Carey, sentenced Davis to $3,000 in fines, 160 hours of community work service, and one year of probation in which time he cannot hunt or trap. He can’t be in the field with a firearm and he can’t be with anyone else who has one. If he messes up in that year he can potentially get the full penalties.
The state prosecutor sought a heavier sentence: $10,000 in fines, 400 hours of community work service, the revocation of his hunting license for two years, and one year probation. Also 30 days of jail time, all suspended.
Aaron Peterson, with Special Prosecutions Office in Anchorage, argued that Davis had been charged with other game violations a few years ago when he shot deer that were swimming from a boat. Davis wasn’t convicted then but an adult he was with was. Peterson said through that Davis was at least made aware that there were laws about illegally taking deer. He said this new incident was more than “a childish indiscretion”.
“It’s senseless, it’s violent, it’s very disturbing,” Peterson said. “Running over deer for fun, recording it, laughing about it and posting it on the Internet or Snap Chat as this case may be is really abhorrent behavior regardless of the age.”
Defense attorney, Nicholas Polasky, represented Davis and asked the judge for a suspended entry of judgement or an SEJ, which is a type of deferred judgement. So, Davis wouldn’t be sentenced and wouldn’t have a record that followed him.
Polasky showed the judge the video of the incident on his laptop—although the audio wasn’t working—and said it was impulsive actions of a teenager.
“I don’t think the video shows something abhorrent,” Polasky said. “I think it shows something that’s wrong. I think it shows something that’s impulsive. I think it shows something stupid, childish, all of those things but I’m not sure it rises to the level of something that I would consider abhorrent.”
At the sentencing there were about a dozen people in the gallery in support of Davis. Judge Carey said he had received half a dozen letters of support for Davis from the community as well. But he also noted that there were several people at the arraignment against Davis. Carey said he considered several factors for the sentence including community condemnation of the incident. He said that Davis is an impulsive teenager but he knew that hitting the deer was wrong.
“I do give weight to what I consider to be the seriousness of this offense particularly in light of the prior offense but also taking into account the nature of youth and the reckless and sometimes stupid decisions that we make,” Carey said. “I think that we can all basically agree that that was what this was.”
During the sentencing hearing Davis read from a letter, stating he was sorry.
“What I did was a very stupid thing,” Davis said. “I’ve thought a lot about the whole fair game concept that all of our laws are based around. And I’ve found a new respect for the fair game. It does affect the wildlife which we all depend on. Once again, sorry.”
The other teenager involved, Jasmine Ohmer, is scheduled to have her change of plea and sentencing on June 5th at 4 p.m. at the Petersburg Superior Court.