A University of South Carolina trustee will have to pay a $30,000 fine after appealing his conviction this week for killing endangered birds of prey at property he controls in Orangeburg County.
The State newspaper reports a federal judge gave Charles Williams the fine Monday, much lower than the $75,000 fine and one-year hunting ban plus community service that a magistrate handed down in 2016. Williams previously pleaded guilty to seven counts of unlawful trapping and killing of red-tailed or Cooper’s hawks.
Trapping and killing hawks without a permit is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and carries a maximum prison term of six months and a fine of up to $15,000, or both, for each count of conviction. Prosecutors said a tipster called the state Department of Natural Resources in 2013 to report the potential crimes. Responding officers said they seized more than 30 raptor carcasses at the plantation during their investigation.
Williams admitted he and two employees at Willcreek Plantation killed the hawks because they attacked and ate quail on the site. Williams was listed as the principal for the LLC which owns the site. The trustee and Orangeburg attorney told the judge he did not realize trapping and killing the predators was a crime.
Prosecutors had sought a more severe punishment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Klumb said investigators had evidence Williams that killed even more birds than the 30 that agents discovered.
The two employees 66-year-old John Dantzler and 57-year-old Jimmie Aiken were also banned from hunting for a year and fined $1,000 each for their roles in the illegal hunting.
Williams has served on the USC board of trustees since 2010, according to the school.