December 5, 2018

A 38-year-old Carroll man claims he was physically abused by state conservation officers during a five-hour interrogation last month, during which the officers confiscated four whitetail deer heads, a cellphone and deer meat, according to court records.

Joshua Ray Snyder, represented by two high-profile West Des Moines attorneys, argues the officers’ confiscations violate a recent change to Iowa law that is meant to ensure that such items are returned to people if they are not convicted of hunting crimes related to the items.

The attorneys, William Kutmus and Trever Hook, told the Daily Times Herald that they are representing a handful of people in situations similar to Snyder’s to recover confiscated property in the first legal tests of the new law.

“It appears the (Department of Natural Resources) is either ignorant of the new statute or willfully blind to its existence,” the attorneys wrote in court documents filed Tuesday on behalf of Snyder.

Snyder was stopped by DNR officers about 10:30 p.m. Nov. 18 on a rural road in Carroll County who were “demanding a confession that he unlawfully killed numerous deer,” according to the court documents.

“During the course of the interrogation a DNR officer physically abused Joshua Snyder by forcefully and painfully twisting his arm behind his back. There was no justification for such physical abuse.”

The documents allege that because Snyder didn’t confess to the hunting violations and hasn’t been charged with or convicted of a hunting crime, the officers improperly confiscated four deer heads.

A DNR receipt of the confiscated property, which was attached to the court documents filed Tuesday, says the items were seized from his parents’ residence in rural Glidden about 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 19. The receipt shows three whitetail buck heads with 11-, 12- and 13-point racks.

Conservation Officer Andrea Bevington, who is listed as the officer who confiscated the items, declined to comment on Snyder’s allegations, citing an ongoing investigation into Snyder. She declined to say whether charges are pending against him.

Before the law change, the burden of proof was on hunters to show they had lawfully taken a deer to recover it, but DNR officials have said that the new law aligns with their current policies.

The law calls for the DNR to return seized property within 30 days of a hunter being found not guilty of a violation, the dismissal of a violation or the expiration of the statute of limitations for the violation.

Attorney Kutmus previously represented a Marion County farmer who lost an appeal two years before the law change to get a set of antlers back after a judge dismissed a hunting-violation charge against him.

DNR spokesman Alex Murphy could not be immediately reached to comment for this article.