Charges dismissed against man with poisonous snakes

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Federal charges will remain

By Calen McKinney

Criminal charges against a Campbellsville man and his wife who were found with venomous snakes and alligators at their home last year have been dismissed.

Amy Rae Stone, 38, and Freddie E. Stone Jr., 36, both of 552 Mt. Carmel Road appeared before Taylor Circuit Court Judge Doughlas M. George on Tuesday, Jan. 6 during regular motion hour proceedings.

The Stones were indicted last May by a Taylor County grand jury and charged with four counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. Freddie Stone was also charged with 10 counts of holding exotic wildlife, 15 counts of buying, selling or transporting protected wildlife and being a first-degree persistent felony offender.

According to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John C. Miller, the prosecutor in the case, the charges were dismissed with leave to re-indict after the disposition of federal charges against Freddie Stone.

"As we typically do, we dismissed on the drug charges so as to allow the U.S. government to proceed as the punishment in that system is more severe," Miller said. "The only remaining charges related to exposing their children to the animals in their home and were for wanton endangerment. We really cannot proceed on those charges until the federal case is resolved."

Miller said if the charges had not been dismissed now, they could have been pending for years and possibly dismissed for lack of prosecution.

"... There is the risk that we could not re-indict," Miller said. "We will likely proceed on those charges at the appropriate time, assuming that law enforcement requests that we do so."

If convicted of the charges, the Stones could have each been sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison.

In a separate indictment, Freddie Stone, along with Orvey Harris Jr., 32, of 715 Maple Road in Campbellsville, were charged last May on charges of first- and second-degree selling a controlled substance.

Harris was also charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance, his second offense, and possession of drug supplies. Freddie Stone was also charged with being a first-degree persistent felony offender.

Those charges were dismissed last July because Harris and Stone were indicted on the same charges in federal court.

Stone and Harris were indicted last June by a Bowling Green federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to illegally distribute OxyContin and hydrocodone.

According to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office, Stone and Harris are accused of conspiring together to distribute more than 900 OxyContin pills and more than 200 hydrocodone pills. The indictment also accuses Stone of intending to distribute the pills.

If convicted of the federal charges, Stone could be sentenced to as much as 70 years in prison, six years of supervised release and a $4.5 million fine. If convicted, Harris could be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison, three years' supervised release and a $1 million fine.

The case against Stone and Harris is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Weiser. It was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The charges against the Stones and Harris stem from a search of the Stone home last March.

According to a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife press release, officers found six western diamondback rattlesnakes, a gaboon viper, a king cobra, a timber rattlesnake, an iguana, two monitor lizards, two alligators, a boa constrictor and a python during the search.

Officers also seized a 2006 Dodge extended cab truck and found what appeared to be a controlled substance and about $31,000 in cash locked in a safe.

The press release states officers visited the home after receiving a tip about the dangerous species.

Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Mark Marraccini said last year that the department received a tip that Stone had the animals at his home. Officers then went to Stone's front door and simply asked if the animals were there.

Stone was not at home during the search and seizure, the release states, though his wife and four young children, ages 2 to 11, were present.

Stone's wife told officers her husband was in a Louisville hospital having a finger amputated after being bit by a snake. Officers then spoke with Stone by phone and he claimed ownership of the illegal species.

Marraccini said having the type of animals found at Stone's home is legal in some states, but Kentucky is not one of them.

"They're inherently dangerous by definition," he said. "We don't need them in Kentucky."

He said someone bitten by venomous animals like the ones found at Stone's home could suffer severe injuries or possibly die.

Such animals, if they had escaped, Marraccini said, could possibly survive with Kentucky's native species, though he says they should not mix.

"They don't need to be in Kentucky and mix with our native species."

Court records state that Stone told fish and wildlife officials that he and his wife were planning on opening an exotic pet store and that is why they had the animals at their home.

Stone and Harris have pleaded not guilty to the federal charges and are scheduled to appear for a hearing tomorrow at 1 p.m. before Chief Judge Thomas B. Russell in Bowling Green. A trial date has been set for Monday, March 2 at 9 a.m.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.