Dead mockingbirds lead to $10K fine for drilling company

David Yates Jul. 18, 2007, 9:43am

Northern Mockingbird

In the Harper Lee novel of the same name, Atticus Finch says it is a sin "to kill a mockingbird." Turns out it's also against the law.

The Spindletop Drilling Corp. opted to pay a $10,000 fine last month, pleading guilty to the charge of Unlawful Taking of Migratory Birds.

Jim Noble, assistant U.S. attorney, brought the charge against the company. The matter was settled in the U.S. District Court of Texas, Texarkana Division, on June 21.

According to the original complaint, a special agent with U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspected an oil pit in Titus County owned by Spindletop on Sept. 6, 2006.

Although the pit had protective netting, the agent found carcasses of 12 Northern Mockingbirds and one Mourning Dove.

"The birds were mired in the oily water where the net had sunk below the surface," the document states.

"Unlawfully taking migratory birds" is a violation of Title 16 of the U.S. Code, sections 703 and 707a.

The migratory birds are included in terms of agreements dating between 1916 and 1976 between the United States and Great Britain, Mexico, Japan and the former Soviet Union to protect migratory birds, birds in danger of extinction and game animals.

The penalty for the violation could have included a six month prison sentence and a fine up to $15,000.

Spindletop president Chris Mazzini accepted a plea agreement June 21 for two years probation and a $10,000 restitution paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. He was represented by Jason Davis of Austin.

Case No. 5:07-cr-00016-DF-CMC

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