WESTMINSTER — Before he was stopped in his pickup truck, with his long-barreled shotgun, a spotlight, a spent round or two of ammunition and an iced case of beer, a longtime county hunter may or may not have bagged a deer in the chilly cold of that October evening.
But Monday in Circuit Court, James Demitri, 52, of Westminster, bagged one of the harshest sentences ever for a spotlighting conviction, as Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. ordered him to spend the next 30 days behind bars at the Carroll County Detention Center.
"You're the worst kind of hunter, the kind who drives around at night, indiscriminately flashing the spotlight while drinking a case of beer," the judge -- an avid hunter -- told Demitri.
"You are a big danger to the thousands of legitimate sportsmen in this state, andyou give encouragement to those who want to take away firearms rights from citizens."
As part of his conviction on spotlighting and hunting deer out of season charges, Demitri was given a six-month sentence, the longest allowed.
And while Beck suspended all but 30 daysof jail time, he confiscated Demitri's $800 rifle, his spotlight, a round of ammunition and a pair of binoculars.
He also fined him $500 and revoked his hunting license for at least two years.
Spotlighting is an increasingly common practice, Department of Natural Resources officials said.
The offense is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, loss of hunting license for up to five years and six months in jail.
While Demitri is not the first spotlighting offender to receive jail time in Carroll, his sentence is believed to be the harshest.
"I can say that this doesn't happen very often," said Officer Eileen Ritter, one of two Department of Natural Resources police officers assigned to patrol the county. "Judges usually don't take this very seriously."
In finding Demitri guilty, Beck said the defendant's story about practice-shooting at his brother-in-law's house -- andusing the spotlight to locate spent rounds scattered around the driveway -- was "made up."
DNR police arrested 135 people on spotlighting charges in Maryland during 1990, the last year for which completefigures are available.
More than 50 of those arrests were in the northern part of the state.
Police were alerted to Demitri after awoman who lives in a wooded area outside of Westminster heard gunshots and saw flashing lights.
A state police trooper on another callalso heard the shots and saw the lights. He came across Demitri's pickup several minutes later.
Spotlighting is illegal in all Maryland counties.
When a hunter uses a light to shine into a deer's eyes, it temporarily blinds the animal, making it easier to kill.