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TRF man sentenced on burglary, poaching charges

A Thief River Falls man has been sentenced to more than 9 months in jail and 10 years supervised probation after being convicted for a series of burglary and deer-shooting incidents last December in Pennington County.

A Thief River Falls man has been sentenced to more than 9 months in jail and 10 years supervised probation after being convicted for a series of burglary and deer-shooting incidents last December in Pennington County.

Justin Hopper, 18, pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and possessing a dangerous weapon, a felony, and to taking and possessing big game out of season, a gross misdemeanor.

Judge Tamara Yon on Monday sentenced Hopper to 280 days in the Pennington County Jail plus the supervised probation on the felony burglary charge, with provisions for work release and sentence to serve programs.

The court stayed 48 months in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud for 10 years and ordered Hopper to pay $5,584 in restitution, along with a $50 fine and $85 in court costs. The court also ordered Hopper to abide by several conditions, including no possession of alcohol or drugs and random searches and testing.

On the big game charge, the court sentenced Hopper to 9 months and 7 days in the Pennington County Jail and two years supervised probation, to be served concurrently with the burglary sentence. The court stayed an additional 2 months and 24 days of jail time for two years.

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Hopper also must perform an "indeterminate" amount of community service work in lieu of paying $501 restitution to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

According to court records, Hopper was charged after officials from Pennington County and the North Star Drug Task Force investigating a string of burglaries obtained a search warrant last December on a Thief River Falls apartment. They found evidence the burglaries and deer shootings might be related. According to court records, the search turned up several guns and other items that had been reported stolen, including a Ducks Unlimited-edition knife covered with deer and hair.

The DNR then got involved to investigate the deer allegations, and Hopper eventually was charged with shooting "between one and four" deer with a .338-caliber rifle, court records show. He also was charged with shooting an eight-point buck, which he transported to his apartment before cutting off the head and wasting the rest of the deer.

DNR conservation officer Jeremy Woinarowicz said he accounted for nine deer that were taken illegally during the shooting incidents, including the eight-point buck and another deer removed from a field and later dumped in an alley.

A second man in the case, Jordan Spina, 18, has pleaded guilty to taking big game out of season and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 31, court records show. Spina remains in custody in the Pennington County Jail.

Related Topics: BURGLARYTHIEF RIVER FALLS
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