UPDATE ON POACHING PIRATE KING
ANNAPOLIS, MD. — Maryland Natural Resources Police report that a Kent County waterman whose commercial license was revoked earlier in 2014 was charged on December 2, 2014 by Natural Resources Police Officer Kristen McFarland with violating his revocation by fishing for striped bass.
Benjamin Leonard Reihl, 27, of 100 Schooner Way, Apt. 37, Chestertown, Md., was seen on successive days working on a commercial boat in the waters off Queen Anne’s County by NRP officers on routine patrol. After confirming with DNR Fisheries Service staff that Reihl’s revocation was not under appeal and that he was prohibited from being aboard any boat engaged in commercial fishing activities, officers issued two citations.
During the 2013-14 oyster season, Reihl was charged on numerous occasions in St. Mary’s, Calvert, Talbot, Queen Anne’s and Somerset counties for harvesting undersized oysters and for taking oysters from sanctuaries and reserve areas. Last March, DNR permanently revoked his commercial fishing privileges.
Three years ago, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation to protect Maryland’s fisheries and encourage shellfish aquaculture. As part of an overall focus on enforcement, DNR established a tougher penalty system for commercial fishing violations that allowed suspensions for a single conviction. The agency also increased the penalty for engaging in commercial fishing on a suspended license, a revoked license or without a license.
As a result, Reihl faces a maximum penalty of $25,000 and/or one year in jail when he is scheduled to appear in Anne Arundel District Court in Annapolis on March 20, 2015.
NEWS STORY ELICITS THREATS
UPDATE: In reaction to this story, one brother threatened the newspaper and the other promised he was going to kill himself and the blame was this article that recounted their encounters with the judiciary system.
On Aug. 11, 2014, a person who identified himself as Ben Reihl called THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY and said, “I just want you to know that when I go and shoot myself tonight it’s this stuff in the paper that made me go and put a bullet in my gun and kill myself tonight.” Caller called from this number: 443-480-1940.
A recorded message was left minutes before the first call from a different number and from a different caller, that threatened THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY “I hope you understand what I am telling you that if you write one more thing about me and my brother what is going to happen to you.” Caller called from this number: 443-480-4574. (Both threats have been reported to the Maryland State Police)
Pirate Poacher Kings –
The State of Maryland has highlighted the actions of Maryland State Police and Natural Resources police using satellite technology, helicopters and watercraft as officers issued citations for poaching, undersize catches, and raids by pirate watermen on oyster sanctuaries. Two men who were subjects of arrests and issuing of citations are featured here along with results of when they appeared in court. They are brothers, Benjamin Leonard Reihl and Adam Vincent Reihl.
Benjamin Leonard Reihl
Chestertown, Md. — Benjamin Leonard Reihl was charged by Maryland Natural Resources Police Officer Rogowski with three counts of possession of undersized oysters on March 21, 2014 and in Talbot County District Court on June 19, 2014 was found guilty and fined $277.50 plus court costs of $22.50.
As Reihl appears to find Maryland rules for watermen and motor vehicle laws inconvenient to him, this PIRATE KING BOX SCORE is provided for our readers as well as for Reihl and his younger brother Adam.
Court records reflect Reihl using the Maryland Public Defender system on one occasion and only once hiring a private attorney; thus the money he saves on lawyers is used on paying fines. But court records reflect that on nearly a half dozen occasions he has been granted a deferred payment status by the courts, meaning that he was able to negotiate plea deals with prosecutors without the help of attorneys and then was able to have his payment deferred.
Reihl’s most recent brush with the lawmen of Maryland came on July 24, 2014 when he was cited for trespassing on posted property, being cultivated farm land, indicating that damage may have been done to crops. The incident is alleged to have taken place on July 23rd and involved the use of an off-road vehicle. Reihl faces trial on Sept. 4, 2014. Reihl was also cited for reckless driving on Goosedown Farm Lane in Worton, Md. on that date by a Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy while operating an ATV.
The Judges and States Attorneys of Maryland must have their own special pool to see who will have Benjamin Reihl next on their dockets.
Appearing without an attorney once again, in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court, Reihl faced charges against him for driving while suspended — as it appears that is Reihl’s favorite form of operation of a motor vehicle. On July 11, 2014, court records reflect that a motion was made to convert a July 11, 2014 jury trial to a pre-trial conference.
Either Queen Anne’s County court clerks are in the unusual habit of failing to note when a defendant is represented by counsel or else Reihl was his own attorney in this matter. A criminal jury trial was scheduled for Aug. 8, 2014 for three counts of driving while suspended and court records show that no jury would be required on the order of Judge Thomas G. Ross, Queen Anne’s County Administrative Judge and the court mailed instructions to the States Attorney and to Benjamin Reihl.
Reihl was charged by Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy D. D. Bennett with driving while suspended on April 20, 2014.
Set for trial in Kent County District Court on Sept. 16, 2014, charged on June 1, 2014 by Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy P. E. Trinks, with driving while suspended at Langford Road and Brice Mill Road.
On April 20, 2014, Reihl was charged with possession of drugs and awaits trial.
On Nov. 27, 2013, Reihl was cited by Natural Resources Police Officer Cheezum with possession of three to four bushels over the limit. On March 20, 2014, Reihl pleaded guilty and no fine was leveled against him by a Talbot County District Court Judge. This outcome of no jail time or no fine is strange when compared to other incidents; check the editor’s note at the end of this article for a possible explanation.
Showing that he is willing to keep prosecutors in other counties of Maryland secure in their jobs, Reihl was charged with robbing oysters from an oyster sanctuary in Somerset County on March 5, 2014, by Natural Resources Police Officer Brimer. His trial will take place in Princess Anne on Sept. 9, 2014. Reihl was also cited by Officer J. W. Bromley IV with possession of unculled oysters on that date and the case will also be heard on Sept. 9, 2014.
On Feb. 21, 2014, Reihl was cited for possession of undersized oysters and possession of unculled oysters by Natural Resources Police Officer Rogowski. On April 23, 2014, Reihl entered a guilty plea in Queen Anne’s County Court and was fined $1,000, of which $800 was promptly suspended as part of the plea deal agreed to by the States Attorney.
On Oct. 16, 2013, Benjamin Leonard Reihl was charged with removing oysters from an oyster sanctuary by Natural Resources Officer R. Starliper. The State of Maryland has designated certain areas of state waters as off limits to harvesting in order to rebuild the oyster population. Oysters are an important part of nature’s way of filtering the water of the Chesapeake and improving water quality. Oyster sanctuaries have been remarkably successful but make tempting targets for oyster pirates such as Reihl. As part of a plea deal with St. Mary’s County States Attorney Richard Fritz, Reihl pleaded guilty on June 5, 2014 to robbing the oyster sanctuary and a charge for failing to appear was dropped. Reihl was fined $427.50 and not given any jail time.
Reihl was also cited for possession of undersize oysters the same day he had violated the oyster sanctuary. On that charge which was prosecuted in St. Mary’s District Court, a plea deal with the States Attorney resulted in a charge of failing to appear being dropped and Reihl pleading guilty to the undersize possession of oysters, with a fine of $450 and a probation period extended to Jun3 5, 2017, which ought to be interesting to track, given his propensity for flouting just about every motor vehicle and laws on the books.
On Oct. 29, 2013 at 5:21 am, Reihl was charged with driving with an expired license on Jones Wharf Road in Hollywood, Md., by Maryland State Trooper N. Gresko.
On March 17, 2014, Reihl was charged with driving while suspended and jailed, he was released from jail on March 21, 2014 and May 5, 2014, requested a jury trial in Kent County Circuit Court, in which he ought to hope the jury is populated by some of his pals. This incident took place on Rt. 213 near Hatchett Road, according to court records, while he operated a 1994 GMC.
On Jan 10, 2009, Reihl was charged by an officer with the Chestertown Police Department with possessing a suspended license and the charges were dropped by the Kent County States Attorney Robert H. Strong Jr. on March 10, 2009. A typical reason why a prosecutor drops a charge is when a defendant rolls over on one of his pals and provides information on drug trafficking to police. Other cases involved lost evidence or the non-availability of the police officer to appear as scheduled in court.
On Sept. 21, 2009, Benjamin Leonard Reihl was charged in Kent County District Court with trespass, burglary and several counts of theft. Reihl’s probation officer, Tyler Brown was listed in court records for this case, indicating that Reihl was on probation. Reihl obtained the services of a public defender, indicating he filed statements swearing his income met the levels set by Maryland for having the taxpayers provide representation. Stefan Skipp, the public defender in Centreville was the attorney for Reihl and the plea bargain he arranged for Reihl likely caused two things to take place. First, Reihl’s criminal history suddenly blanked out due to his being sentenced to 18 months in jail, making him unavailable to the criminal justice system and allowing other miscreants to gain notoriety. Second, the effectiveness of his counsel may have made an indelible impression upon Reihl, who had time in the slammer to bone up on law books and represent himself in future episodes of Truth & Consequences. All but two charges were dropped on March 3, 2010 and Reihl pleaded guilty to two counts of theft.
On Dec. 9, 2009 Reihl was found guilty in Queen Anne’s County District Court of failing to leave identification at the scene of an unattended property damage collision which took place at intersection of Rt. 300 and Benton Corner Road on March 9, 2009. Reihl was arrested by Trooper M. N. Kendall of the Centreville Barrack of the Maryland State Police. He was sentenced to sixty days in jail.
On Dec. 22, 2008, Reihl was found guilty of possessing unculled oysters and fined $132.50 plus court costs. He was charged by Natural Resources Police on March 18, 2008.
On Sept. 19, 2006 and on Oct. 15, 2006, eleven counts of drug distribution, possession, theft and possession of drug paraphernalia were made against Reihl by Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Nate Blazejak. Deputy Blazejak has spent a lot of time working drug task force investigations. In this case, Reihl obtained the services of noted Chestertown attorney David M. Williams. As a result, the charges against Reihl were all dropped by Kent County States Attorney Strong on Feb. 5, 2007.
Adam Vincent Reihl
On May 23, 2014, Adam Reihl demonstrated that he and his brother are simply training aids for police agencies on how to make arrests of those who refuse to maintain state-issued driver’s licenses. He was arrested by Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy H. Kettner for operating while suspended and on July 29, 2014 entered a guilty plea agreed to by Kent County States Attorney Robert Strong Jr. Adam Reihl was sentenced to 45 days in jail and a fine of $42.50. He was represented by Public Defender Robert A. Morris. Court records show that Adam Reihl entered the county jail on July 29, 2014.
On May 19, 2014, Adam Reihl entered a guilty plea in a deal with the Talbot County States Attorney, on a charge of possessing undersized oysters. He was fined $77.50 and the fine was deferred.
On March 21, 2014, Adam Reihl was charged by Natural Resources Police Officer Rogowski with two counts of possession of undersized oysters. His case was heard in Talbot County District Court on June 19, 2014 and he entered a guilty plea which resulted in a fine of $77.50 on each count, both of which the Judge allowed to be deferred. Therefore, his plea to guilty was not backed up by his wallet. There was no jail time assessed against him.
On March 23, 2014, Adam appeared in Queen Anne’s County District Court to face trial for a citation issued on Feb. 21, 2014 by Natural Resources Police Officer Rafter for possession of undersized oysters. In a plea arrangement, Adam Reihl was sentenced to no jail time and to pay a fine of $1,000 which was promptly lowered to $200. He was also put on probation until Oct. 23, 2015. Adam Reihl was represented by Public Defender James D. Kruger. During the time period between being cited for possession of undersize oysters and his trial date, he had been cited for violating his probation and spent one day in jail as a result.
On Oct. 16, 2013, Adam Reihl was charged by Natural Resources Police R. Starliper with raiding an oyster sanctuary and when he appeared in St. Mary’s County District Court on June 5, 2014, in a plea agreement with St. Mary’s States Attorney Richard Fritz, he was fined $427.50 and charges of failing to appear were dropped. No jail time was included in the verdict. A second charge of possession of undersized oysters elicited a guilty plea and a $450 fine. In this case, his probation period was set to run to June 5, 2017 but if the reader believes that anyone in the State of Maryland Judicial System actually tracks these probation periods then one would believe that the fines are actually collected.
On March 5, 2014 Adam Vincent Reihl fared better in District Court in Somerset County, home to many watermen. A charge of possession of undersize oysters was dropped by Somerset County States Attorney Daniel W. Powell. Powell has been States Attorney since 2011.
On March 4, 2013, Adam Reihl was arrested by Maryland State Trooper J. Kelly of the Centreville Barrack on charges of driving while suspended. In a plea deal with the Queen Anne’s County States Attorney on July 30, 2014, Adam Reihl was given 56 days in jail and a fine of $500. On March 24, 2013 Reihl was jailed on charges of violation of his probation, was released on the same day, jailed again on June 16, 2014 and ordered to jail on weekends from 6 pm Fridays to Sunday at 6 pm. This arrangement allows plenty of time for him to drive without a license during the rest of the week.
A charge of driving while suspended was filed by Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy M. V. Piasecki on March 24, 2011 and the charge was dropped by Kent County States Attorney Robert H. Strong Jr. on June 9, 2011.
A charge of failing to yield the right of way to another vehicle leveled by Chestertown Police Officer J. Walker was put on the stet docket by the Kent County States Attorney on Aug. 1, 2014. A citation for using a cell phone while driving was also adjudicated that day by adding it to the stet docket.
On Jan. 1, 2014, Adam Reihl was charged with driving while his license was suspended and on Aug. 1st that charge too was put on the stet docket by States Attorney Strong. A stet docket filing means that the charge is simply set aside for one year pending a life free of committing crimes. Should that person be found guilty of other misdeeds, then the original charge will be brought back.
(Editor’s Note: In some areas of Maryland, it has been a tradition of watermen to present bushels of crabs or oysters on the back porch of prosecutors who made sure their cases were dropped. In response to easy dealing for pirates of the Chesapeake, Maryland has been setting up special dockets for those charged with Natural Resources violations.
Watermen have accused bureaucrats with the Dept. of Natural Resources with bringing in oyster shells from the south which were coated with mud and placing them on healthy oyster beds in Maryland creeks and rivers. Watermen claim that too many rules are designed by those who have no knowledge of the water and fishery issues and respond only to extreme environmentalists hell-bent to stop all harvesting and fishing activities.
Watermen have also cited some cases of overreach on the part of the NRP for wasting taxpayer resources in citing watermen who were outside the areas of sanctuaries. Maryland Natural Resources officials will be requested to fully explain the scope of their investigations and account for their actions. Tracking the court outcomes of those cases in response to reader suggestions resulted in this article being presented.
The inclusion of the motor vehicle citations with this analysis of their criminal records is pertinent in that the use of motor vehicles to transport the product of their work and of their poaching is essential to getting both legally caught fish, oysters and crabs as well as illegally obtained catch, to market.
In the saga of Benjamin and Adam Reihl, it is unclear how they manage to make a living as watermen when they seem to spend more time in court than on the water. They do appear to have found a way to minimize their convictions without employing attorneys.
On Nov. 14, 2013, Adam Reihl noted on his Facebook page that good fortune had come to his brother. “Holy **** my brother just won 5000 dollars on a scratch off!!! Just goes to show you everyone’s luck can change!”
On June 3, 2013, Adam Reihl noted on Facebook: “Jail here I come”. )
One reader, who’s identity is known to THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY but is being protected due to the lawlessness of the Reihl brothers, has provided tips on other illegal activity involving one or both. That resident of the Eastern Shore wrote: “The reason for the poaching is simply this they both have a $200 dollar a day habit. If he does shoot himself crying wolf is their game. It will be with a stolen gun”.