ELKINS – Wildlife sanctuary owner Joel Rosenthal proposes to settle a suit against state officials who prosecuted him for rescuing a half drowned fawn, but his aggravation hasn't subsided.
He vented steam in a Dec. 10 letter to attorneys for Division of Natural Resources Director Frank Jezioro, assistant attorney general William Valentino and DNR conservation officer Sean Duffield.
The letter accompanied a settlement proposal and other documents pertaining to his claims of defamation, malicious prosecution and violation of due process.
"I tried to keep the wording of the enclosed documents as simple and as clear as possible so that your clients, who in the past have demonstrated their inability to understand the English language, will have little difficulty at reading and answering the material," he wrote.
He told Charleston attorneys Brian Morrison and Charles Bailey that their clients could "either answer my questions honestly and admit to their illegalities or lie with their answers, perjure themselves and allow me to impeach them on the witness stand."
Rosenthal, acting without a lawyer, holds the upper hand because U. S. District Judge John Preston Bailey has held that Jezioro, Valentino and Duffield violated his rights.
Judge Bailey stripped them of the immunity from lawsuits that state employees generally enjoy, exposing them to liability as individuals.
Rosenthal's letter advised the lawyers that while Judge Bailey's decision was not final, their clients would be fools to discount his statements.
Rosenthal owns Point of View Farms near Hillsboro in Pocahontas County. He holds a state business license authorizing him to run a wildlife sanctuary. Area residents and DNR agents have brought injured wildlife to him.
In 2005, two men pulled a fawn from a pond and asked him to care for it. He did, but DNR agents charged him with illegal possession of wildlife.
Jurors in magistrate court convicted him, but on appeal Circuit Judge Joseph Pomponio dismissed the charge.
Valentino petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeals to review Pomponio's decision, and the Justices granted the appeal.
They regretted it, however, because at oral argument Rosenthal embarrassed Valentino.
Justice Robin Davis asked why, with criminals running the streets and thousands of children being abused, the state prosecuted someone who did something good.
The justices dismissed the appeal, admitting they granted it improvidently.
Jezioro and Valentino nevertheless ordered Rosenthal to cease and desist from caring for wild animals.
Rosenthal sued them and Duffield in Pocahontas County, and they removed the suit to the Elkins division of federal court in the state's northern district.
They moved to dismiss, relying on state immunity, but Judge Bailey denied the motion on Nov. 13.
Rosenthal's victory stirred him to mockery of attorneys Morrison and Bailey.
"The rumor at Fazio's is that several of your competing law firms on and around Virginia Street are already bantering about how that hillbilly hermit from the mountains has already outdone Charlie Bailey and will skewer his clients in court," he wrote, referring to Charleston landmarks.
"The two of you have already garnished a chapter in my upcoming book, 'Bambi and the Supremes.' Walt Disney might even do a movie," he wrote. "In the book and in the movie you are villains and do not fare very well."
He attached a photo of three fawns on his couch.