The four local men accused of snapping photos with a pair of deer they pursued and captured before putting them online earlier this month were each offered a reduced fine in exchange for community service Wednesday morning.
The plea deal came during an appearance in Riverhead Town court for the four defendants: 18-year-old George Salzmann of Calverton, 19-year-old Conor Lingerfelt of Jamesport, 20-year-old Joseph Sacchitello of Riverhead and 20-year-old Anthony Infantolino of Wading River.
All were offered 20 hours of community service per ticket in exchange for reducing the maximum $250 fine to $100 per citation, prosecutors said in court. If they take the deal, the men would also have to pay a $75 surcharge.
The four were not required to plead in court, and would get the benefits of the deal if they complete the community service before their next court appearances in January. Court officials said one of the four might decide not to take the offer, and would have to pay the full fine if found guilty.
Department of Environmental Conservation officials said they were tipped off on Halloween when someone sent the two pictures to them, one of which apparently showed the four men smiling while one held the deer and another held a can of beer in the air.
The pictures had been posted on Instagram, a social media photo sharing website.
Authorities said the Mr. Salzmann and Mr. Lingerfelt caught the first deer while it was trapped inside a fence.
The other deer, officials said, was caught after it was chased down on Hulse Landing Road in Wading River and trapped between the four men’s vehicle and a fence. Authorities said both deer were apparently brought back to Mr. Infantolino’s house in Wading River and were later released unharmed.
The four men were issued citations for illegal take and pursuit of protected wildlife. Officials said Mr. Salzmann was given three tickets — two for illegally taking and pursuing deer, and one more for having an untagged deer head at his home.
Mr. Lingerfelt was given two citations for illegally taking and pursuing deer. He is spotted in both photos with Mr. Salzmann, officials said. Mr. Sacchitello and Mr. Infantolino, 20, of Wading River, were each charged once.
DEC officials found the four men at Bean & Bagel on Route 25 in Calverton the next day and cited them for the incident.
“Although these young men may have thought their actions were harmless and trivial, serious consequences can occur due to these types of actions,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully earlier this month.
But one of the men disputed the DEC’s claims. Mr. Salzmann told the News-Review that the four hadn’t trapped the deer, but instead were caring for it after they found it injured on the side of the road.
“I go out and I try to do the right thing and it came back to bite me in the butt,” he said on Nov. 13. He said he regretted taking the photo with alcohol, but denied any of the four were intoxicated and said they did the right thing.
“The photo that was taken with the beer was probably not the best photo, but the photo of us holding it and smiling – I don’t see any harm in that,” Mr. Salzmann said.