Mark R. Madler
Animal-rights activist Steve Hindi was found guilty Thursday of interfering with hunters be flying a motorized paraglider toward a flock of geese to keep them from being shot.
Hindi carried with him a nylon bag containing the paraglider as he left the courtroom of McHenry County Associate Judge Gordon Graham.
Hindi, of south suburban Plano, and his attorneys, Judith and Rick Halprin, said they planned to appeal. Sentencing was set for March 7. Hindi faces up to 180 days in the McHenry County Jail and a $1,500 fine.
Hindi was charged Sept. 8, 1986, with three counts of violating the state's hunter interference law, which bars citizens from interfering with lawful hunts.
He had flown over the Woodstock Hunt Club, allegedly scaring away geese in the process. Three club employees said they watched as Hindi flew into a flock of geese, splitting the flock and sending the geese in different directions.
Since Hindi's arrest, the law had been changed to specifically ban flights over hunting areas.
The three guilty verdicts were returned after a two-day trial that included testimony from Hindi, who is the owner of an industrial fastener company and president of a Chicago-area animal-rights organization.
Hindi testifies that his presence in the skies above the hunters was meant as a form of protest. He denied flying toward the geese, saying it would have been too risky in his flimsy flying machine.
During testimony Thursday, Mitchell Caplan, a pilot of small-engine airplanes, said that wild birds present a danger to aircraft, including a paraglider.
"Geese, especially, are dangerous because they are large birds," said Caplan. "If you were to hit one you would disable the aircraft and possibly crash."
In his closing argument, Rick Halprin said that the case against Hindi was "phony" and "made up" by hunt club employees to make the protesters leave because they were bad for business.
Assistant State's Atty. Robert Beaderstadt, one of the prosecutors of the case, said that while Hindi had the right to protest he could not interfere with other people's rights.
The hunt club closed following the death of its owner in 1996.