VICTIMS' GUIDE TO TIMBER THEFT - "GET-EVEN"/"STRIKE-FIRST" WARRANT
Part D discussed victims’ lack of power when they find loggers on their land. That’s not the half of it. There are a number of other ways for loggers to get at victims, and most illegal loggers, at least, seem to be fully aware of them. There’s a short-cut name for these actions. They’re called "Get-Even” or “Strike-First" warrants.
For clarification, the “Get-Even” warrant is not limited to logging situations. “Get-Even” warrants can be and are used in a wide variety of situations. It’s apparently a common occurrence in some areas for one party in a fight, even if he instigated the fight and came out on top, to immediately go to the County Attorney and swear out a warrant against the other person. The warrant is often issued without one iota of investigation of the claim. One Sheriff told of an incident where two men beat a third so severely that he ended up in the hospital, then went straight the next morning and got a warrant against him – issued without investigation - which the Sheriff had to serve on him at his hospital bed.
A "Get Even” warrant in a logging situation can take several forms, and can take place at any point after a landowner discovers that he’s lost trees.
One landowner recounts his experience with a ‘Get Even” warrant this way: He got a call from his niece telling him someone was logging his land. He drove to his land the next day and walked it, and discovered trees missing. He followed equipment tracks back from the cut area until he came within sight of another owner’s land, where he saw a pile of logs. At that point, although he was still on his own land, the neighbor came out and challenged his right to be in the area. He reported the theft to the Sheriff, who subsequently sent him to the County Attorney’s office. When he reached the County Attorney’s office, the County attorney took him into a separate room and read him his rights. The neighbor had reached the County Attorney ahead of him and charged him with terroristic threatening, or something similar. The victim found himself in court at considerable expense defending himself against that charge, while nothing was being done to investigate his timber theft. And this in spite of the fact that the neighbor allegedly told someone in authority that they ‘might have strayed over’ and taken trees from his land (straying which he describes as being nearly half a mile).
Several landowners have met a different problem. One woman who was told that her land was being logged said she tried to go out and check her land, and found the road she had to use was blocked by a bulldozer belonging to the person reported to be cutting her timber. She called the State Police to ask that they come and have the bulldozer removed from this public access right of way, since it is supposedly illegal in Kentucky to block anyone’s access to their land. When the State Policeman arrived, he informed the woman that he couldn’t do anything, because the road was not a state highway. When she proposed to leave her vehicle behind, walk around the bulldozer, and go along the road by foot to check her land, however, the State Policemen told her that she would be committing criminal trespass and could be arrested.
Other landowners have met the same problem. One landowner in the central part of the state had to go to court and get a court order to be able to bring in a surveyor and timber expert to his own land to check his losses.
Another victim of a logger who was indicted for taking his missing trees was the victim of not only the logging theft, but the following “Get Even” accusation: The indictee went to the County Attorney and charged the victim with “harassment without contact.” Specifically, he charged the victim with following him along a state highway. Not with making any gestures, no threats, not a single indication that the victim even knew the logger was on the same road - just driving on the same highway. Setting aside the ridiculousness of that, considering that State Highways are for public use by anyone, it happened that the victim had a workman at his house on the named day who could testify the victim hadn’t once left the place on the day he supposedly was following the indictee. But the prosecutor issued a warrant/summons on the word of the logger. Once the document was issued, it cost the victim considerable time and money, and a lot of stress, to contest the charge. (It is notable that only two states, West Virginia and Kentucky, permit the "harassment without contact" charge and that it appears to be ripe for abuse.)
This is another of those cases when there was not a shred of investigation before the warrant was issued. And so long as illegal loggers can impose this sort of burden on victims, they will continue to do that.