Sentencing in Largest Case of Poaching

Michael Jaden Kornegay

Another of the defendants charged in 2016 with over 20 cases of poaching was sentenced in the Leon District Court on Monday, February 26th. Michael Jaden Kornegay of Centerville was sentenced to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections Jail (TDCJ) in exchange for his guilty plea to Burglary of a Habitation; 10 years TDCJ for Enticing a Child; and 10 months for each of 22 counts of Taking Wildlife Resources without the Landowners? Consent.

District Judge Michael Davis presided over the sentencing and also ordered Kornegay to pay $8,176 in Restitution. Texas Parks and Wildlife will assess Civil Restitution to recover the value of the deer destroyed. Kornegay will be ineligible for a hunting license for a period of time to be determined by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Leon District Attorney Hope Knight stated that she was pleased with the sentencing.

Kornegay, who has been in the Leon County Jail for over 300 days, will be credited with time served. Kornegay has been incarcerated since it was determined he had violated the terms of his bond. The attorney for Kornegay was Stephen Reed.

Most of the details of this crime spree were revealed at the sentencing hearing held in March of 2018 for James Hayden Dare Belknap of Jewett. At that hearing, the two Texas Parks and Wildlife officers who did the investigation into the series of crimes, testified that it was the largest case of poaching in the state of Texas in terms of volume of animals destroyed.

The first incident of poaching by the defendants happened in the spring of 2015; they were all arrested and charged in March of 2016. The officers spent 640 hours on the case and estimated that at least 68 animals were destroyed by the defendants.

Testimony revealed that the individuals started killing deer and using the meat for their own or others? consumption, but later killed deer and left the animals in the field. Finally, cows were shot and killed, including one incident in which a cow and her calf were destroyed with a machete.

The defendants also broke into hunting cabins and damaged the inside of the buildings. Evidence of one break in was viewed on video recording at the hearing. At least one of the defendants fired shots into a service station, at parked cars, and a house according to the testimony.

Belknap was sentenced by retired, visiting Judge Sam Bournias. After hearing the testimony, Bournias sentenced Belknap to 1 year in TDCJ followed by 5 years of probation. Belknap was also ordered to pay $2,500 in Restitution to one property owner.

Daniel Wyatt Pate of Centerville was sentenced by Judge Davis in September of 2018. Pate received 5 years Deferred Adjudication on the charge of Burglary of a Building and must serve 400 hours of Community Service. Pate is required to pay fees, restitution, fines, and serve 120 days in the county jail.

Pate was also sentenced for 2 counts of Burglary of a Habitation and 9 counts of Taking Wildlife Resources without the Landowners? Consent. For those convictions, Pate was imposed with another $1,500 fine plus more fees and restitution charges and 500 additional hours of community service. The judge stipulated that all the community service hours be done with the Parks and Wildlife Officers.

One of the game wardens who testified said that Pate had cooperated with the investigation. The game warden said he was satisfied with the sentencing of Pate.