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Prosecutor to drop charges against Indiana couple in deer rescue case

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 3:59 pm

GREENSBURG — An Indiana prosecutor says he plans to drop illegal possession charges against a couple who nursed an injured white-tailed deer back to health and kept it in an enclosure on their farm for two years, agreeing to a request by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Decatur County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Douglas Brown told The Indianapolis Star the charges against Connersville police officer Jeff Counceller and his wife, Jennifer, would be dropped by the end of the week. Brown says his office decided to drop the charges in response to a request from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

"Certainly, we have the final say," Brown said. "But we relied heavily on DNR's wishes to first of all file it and second of all, dismiss it."

The DNR sought the charges against the Councellers after the deer they rescued went missing last summer on the day the DNR planned to euthanize it. Jeff Counceller had earlier said he found the deer in 2010 curled up on a front porch with maggot-infested puncture wounds, so he took it back to his family's 17-acre farm in Connersville to try to save it. The couple named the fawn Dani and kept it in a fenced enclosure.

The Councellers said they had intended to release the deer once it was strong enough to survive on its own. They tried to find it a home at animal rescue operations, petting zoos and deer farms, but no one would take it. They applied for a rescue permit but were turned down.

DNR filed a report in Fayette County, which sought a special prosecutor because Counceller deals with prosecutors in Fayette County as part of his job.

The DNR announced last week it would ask prosecutors to dismiss the charge, which carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, after Gov. Mike Pence asked the agency to review the case.

A telephone message seeking comment was left Thursday for Jennifer Counceller by The Associated Press. No message could be left for Jeff Counceller because his mailbox was full.

Brown says his office will issue a special prosecutor's report explaining its decision once the charges have been dismissed.

Thousands of people outraged by the case have signed an online petition calling for the charges to be dropped.