Strange Hunting Tale From Tennessee
NASHVILLE (CN) - The host of a hunting show claims in court that a Tennessee wildlife agency is hunting him.
William "Spook" Spann sued Ed Carter, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, and other TWRA officials, alleging civil rights violations in Federal Court.
Spann, who describes himself as "a professional hunter who has been hunting in Tennessee and in remote places of the world since he was a boy," hosts "Spook Nation" on the Pursuit network. He says the TWRA has "terrorized" him and his family, beginning with the seizure of prize buck antlers.
Spann claims that a former cameraman, defendant Thomas Sutherland, turned on him and aided and abetted the TWRA. Together, Spann says in the lawsuit, they "put out feed, baited fields, put illegal surveillance cameras on Mr. Spann's property and provided false testimony against Mr. Spann in the United States District Court of Kansas."
Spann claim the "rogue" agency is using an insurance fraud charge to harass him and his family. The Orwellian allegations include TWRA officers maintaining a "very visible" presence around the homes of Spann and his family members.
"The TWRA has spent countless man hours pursuing Mr. Spann, terrorizing his family, threatening his family, invading his privacy, and converting and destroying his property, all in hopes of charging him with a hunting violation, which they have not been able to do," the complaint states. "Instead, the defendants have pursued a claim against Mr. Spann for allegedly making a false insurance claim on a lost cellular phone. The TWRA and these defendants have spared no expense in targeting and 'hunting' Mr. Spann while untold real crimes go unsolved throughout Tennessee."
Spann claims TWRA agents were seen on his street several times and were spotted sitting in his father's driveway.
It all began, Spann claims, when he killed a "monster buck" in Kansas in 2007 and its record size was featured on the cover of two hunting magazines.
His cameraman did not get credit for a photo of the buck in one magazine and was not offered a job at the other magazine as promised, so he quit working with Spann in 2008 and decided to "ruin his hunting career," Spann claims in the complaint.
He claims that TWRA approached Sutherland in 2011 and "demanded footage of the big Kansas buck killed in 2007" before breaking into Spann's home and stealing the antlers.
"In February 2011, TWRA officers went to Mr. Spann's house and woke his family up at 5 a.m., while he was out of the country," the complaint states. "They seized the rack of the Kansas buck killed in 2007."
Spann was charged with hunting the buck with the wrong license and "violating the federal Lacey Act for transporting the buck from Kansas to" Tennessee, according to the complaint. He was indicted in Kansas in 2012.
The next year, TWRA and Sutherland plotted "to work undercover to set up his [former] boss for a probation violation during spring turkey season."
They set up cameras on Spann's farm and spread feed on the ground to make the footage look like he uses questionable hunting methods, the complaint states.
TWRA also "seized property belonging to Mr. Spann from Jones Taxidermy without lawful authority" in 2013, according to the complaint.
Spann and his wife were arrested in 2014 for insurance fraud charges brought by TWRA related to a cell phone, he says.
Spann claims the TWRA's illegal searches and Sutherland's allegedly false testimony violated his Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
"The plaintiff avers that he and his family have been under constant and unreasonable surveillance since the beginning of turkey season in 2013, without a basis other than to exact unlawful penalties on him and to harm his ability to make a living as a hunter," the complaint states. "The intent of the efforts of these defendants is to obtain a felony conviction on Mr. Spann so that he cannot own, possess or use a firearm, thereby eliminating his ability to hunt with a firearm
TWRA told hunter safety students that Spann was "an example of poor hunting ethics" and an anonymous caller got Spann's son, who was a member of his high school's rifle team, arrested for having a gun in his car in the high school parking lot, according to the complaint.
"The TWRA exercises general police powers throughout Tennessee with total disregard for citizens' constitutional rights with a power and profit motive and beyond its authority," Spann claims.
He seeks $1 million in punitive damages, $300,000 in compensatory damages and return of his property. He is represented by G. Kline Preston IV in Nashville.